IN his new book Secret Publicity (2006), Sven Lutticken mounts the soapbox on behalf of an art that aims for a Ďcounter-publicnessí, in contradistinction to a public sphere that has been corrupted by manipulative corporate forces and spectacle. Although the Situationists are his main point of reference, other models are considered. Tracking the career of Pere Ubuís front man David Thomas, Lutticken explores the rock group that, instead of seeking disconnected stardom in the pantheon of arena-rock gods, grounds itself in a particular context, turning rock into folk art and producing an interesting counterpart: the specialised fan cult. This is fandom as a quasi-Bataillean secret sect. Idolaters at heart, these fans are unlike the dilettantes that just let their iPods shuffle, cutting across an incoherent medley of downloaded tunes. These fans have sharpened their taste to where only one band will do. Just ask Joy Division junkies. Or the Chicano kids in East LA that could just die for Morrissey. Of course, this hardcore fan lives on an illusion Ė that he or she is beyond the manipulations of the culture industry. She can spot all the fakes, except, naturally, the one that sheís completely blind to.
But all is not lost just because hardcore fandom architects its own la-la lands. Even if it isnít the ideal example, specialising in off-the-radar knowledge implies a different kind of publicness. Not being understood or seen is a different way of being, something that spectacle canít appropriate. And the hardcore fan certainly shows us that what we call Ďalternative lifestylesí are merely maudlin half-attempts. Living immersed in the myth of a band, the way Japanís hikikomori live confined to their bedrooms for years, is one way to reorganise the everyday.
Beatriz Monteavaro lives fandom as if it were as essential as oxygen or beer. She does little else but draw New Wave stars Ė Adam Ant, Siouxsie Sioux, Gary Numan and, lately, the Go-Gos Ė who are protagonists in the endless narrative that her drawings illustrate. This quasi-mythological narrative has also pulled in Bela Lugosi, Madame Curie, zombies and Planet of the Apes simians. What is interesting is that, over time, this narrative has grown rather intricate. One thinks of Henry Dargerís Vivian Girls epic as a place where Monteavaro may be headed. But with Monteavaro the narrative at first seems accessible. After all, Adam Ant isnít her invention; the Go-Gos arenít rare currency. But they coalesce in storylines that are impossible to follow, unless Monteavaro herself gives you the tour. Itís difficult, for instance, to surmise from any one drawing that Adam Ant and evil Siouxsie Sioux are engaged in a war over the last batch of eyeliner left on the planet; that Ant has recruited Numan for the cause; that an evil spell turns Ant and Numan into apes and they must seek help from Ziggy Stardust and Lugosi; that chain reactions and malfunctions cause the dead to rise, and Madame Curie must call on her aquamaid Go-Gos to save Ant and Numan from the armies of zombies and apes that are on their way.
Even if one discerns some of the storyís twists, an overall panoramic view is impossible. Monteavaro takes what the culture industry provides and customises it into a secret story that answers only to her desires, revealing how the fan can structure Ďmeaningfulí and complex narratives out of impoverished materials. And while she may lack the self-reflexivity necessary for a position of real adversarial publicness, the hardcore fan is a constant reminder of the dissatisfaction that fuels our desire to find more effective ways of engaging with capitalismís context-less phantasmagorias.
gean moreno is a writer and artist based in miami