Indrani explains the many layers of celebrity through the example of Lindsay Lohan.

Jul 29, 2010

Lindsay Lohan is eating your brain. You think you know her. Everyone thinks they know what she is. A woman-child, an innocent, a victim, a genius, a deviant? Do you know as much about yourself? We’re all sure we know what Lindsay needs. But no one can agree. Aren’t these projections of what we need ourselves? Loving parents, a good lawyer, tough love, a wake-up call. Why do our great pundits devote time to Lindsay’s analysis—so eager to help her or to bask in her glow? What is Lindsay Lohan? What is a star? What am I? What’s real? What’s an ideal?

As an image creator, I am drawn to these issues of ideals and objectification, artifice and authenticity, fantasy and reality, light and shadows, smoke and mirrors—these are the tools of my art. I enjoy finding great thinkers throughout history inspired by these same elements, which they use to represent their ideas. Philosophers’ chief concerns appear to be that things are not as they appear. Our shoots remind me of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, where the light represents truth, and subjects cast shadows that are representations, forms or ideas. He exhorts us to break the chains of illusions we perceive as the material world, and gaze instead at the transcendent reality in the light of truth, then set others free. Plato probably wasn’t thinking of reality TV, but it may be the brightest light we’ve got right now.

Descartes, Kant, and Marx were all concerned with how to overcome the duality, with many, like Schopenhauer, seeing art as a means to spiritual freedom. Nietzsche views philosophy, morals and ideals themselves as “idols”; reality as a continuous state of transformation through the “will to life” in the material world; and art as the only justification for life. Life takes on meaning only as it is expressed in art.

We make art from life, through our images, and life from art, as iconic images attach their aura to their subjects’ lives. We’re completing the circle by filming the process, to recontextualize the missing meaning. The million-dollar question is no longer what is real, but how to make one person’s reality become the fantasy of millions around the globe?