Lea Dippold

During the residency, Lea invited public figures (often exploited and abused by mass media) who offer a surface for identification and projection. She talks to those figures, who were and are her best friends, lovers, confidants, and inspirations — reflecting on their influence, remembering and honouring them while navigating systems of fandom and modes of escapism, obsession, substitution, and the longing for connection. The collection includes Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Whitney Houston, Lana Kaiser, Anna Nicole Smith, and many others.

Since 2019, she has been co-director and curator for the nonprofit exhibition project Fonda. In 2023, Dippold graduated in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. As a guest, she studied Text and Textile at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Photography at the Camberwell College of Arts in London, and Theory and History in Fine Arts in the class of Simon Denny and Dr. Hanne Loreck at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg. The artist lives and works in Berlin.

Lea Dippold's artistic and curatorial work has been showcased at varying venues, including HALLE 14 Center for Contemporary Art — Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, Kunsthalle Exnergasse in Vienna, OKAY Initiative Space in Athens, Kunsthalle Zürich, City Surfer Office Prague, and Southwark Park Galleries London.



Lea Dippold for Zeal Studios

QI: Hi Lea! You recently have been taking part in a residency program initiated by Zeal Studios in Berlin, leading up to your exhibition at Council+ Gallery. Tell us about your project and how you spent the last three months in the studio.

My project very broadly revolves around fandom as an identity forging bond rooted in adolescence and maintained into adulthood. The project can be seen as a practice of fanfiction that is embodied in a collection of drawings and a choir singing. The drawings are portraits of figures that were both extensively loved and abused by mass media, like Amy Winehouse or Whitney Houston. I have been developing the choir performance with nine other performers during the residency. It comprises text passages as an ode to those figures and the communal, organic experience of singing.

QII: I find it interesting how the drawings figure as a more static projection, whilst the choir has a more formative nature. How would you describe the relationship between these two parts of your work, how do they communicate with each other?

I think fandom relies on a very complex structure, and it moves in various ways; I see both the drawings and the singing as a generative force of different fandoms. And with that also comes an emancipated image of “the fan’’ who, as a co-creator of fame, subliminally acquires more agency than when viewed as just the consumer. This is important to me, since fans, especially fangirls, used to be ultra-stigmatized and sort of declared embarrassing, awkward, or lonely.

When it comes to how these two parts stand to each other: I think they don’t directly need each other, but they portray a bigger picture of modes of fandom.

QIII: I feel like pop cultural reflections somehow suggest new media and a stance towards digital platforms; What led you to specifically work with a choir and drawings?

As for the choir, I was eager to do something with my physical body, using it (literally) as an instrument with a spatial outcome. Pop-cultural reflections, for most of us, stay in a non-organic, abstract, surreal sphere, which makes it seem so far away. I think translating a fanfictional homage into a choir forges an emotional proximity that is otherwise subjugated by spectacle and profit. It’s almost like the choir is escaping the algorithmically driven paranoia of information that fandom is subdued by and simultaneously producing online. Singing these odes in a choir is like acquiring back spatial agency in an age where the body is increasingly repressed by the media. I really like how the choir condenses mass information on celebrities into a very tangible shared experience. For me, communal singing is a very wholesome and connecting practice, not only in connecting with other people, but also with your own body. It felt very liberating to come together with the nine peers to forge this analogue body of work.

Meanwhile, the drawings reflect a more primal, more accessible, intuitive and adolescent mode of loving someone. I feel like sketching your star is this very intimate moment of love affirmation and positive projections – for me, it also has something highly dissociative to it. The drawings for my work are kept in a style that refers to my teenage girlhood. The drawings are very sketchy, they’re drawn on school notebooks and will be enriched with notes crossing their frames and spreading onto the walls of the exhibition space. It’s like you’re sitting in class, daydreaming as you are writing a love letter on your piece of paper and accidentally finishing the sentence on the table instead, without realizing it. It’s this dissociative feeling of longing and escapism evoked by pop culture that I find so captivating and want to address in my work.

QIV: What is it like being a fangirl to you, does it still feel the same now as back when you were a teen?

It means so many things. It means that I love someone because they make me feel less lonely, and because they make me feel understood. I don’t mean to say that fans are generally lonely, but in my experience, these attachment figures often fill a void that my actual surroundings can not fill. It is a survival tool, a world I can always immerse myself in. That’s for sure a more melancholic fan identity compared to practices like sharing friendship bracelets at a Taylor Swift concert.

Fandom is a very gendered and biased space, maybe now more than ever. Also, if we look at fanfiction, here are many highly established ones in our hegemonic culture and arts, like The Three Musketeers, Lord of the Flies, and many other respectable theater works. Today, writing  fanfiction is primarily assigned to girls, lonely housewives, or isolated queers sitting at home and making up their dream worlds, because reality is unbearable. What I am interested in is viewing fandom not as something stuck in shame and alienation, but rather acknowledging the subversive potential of it.

What is also interesting is that fandom often suggests inferiority (to the admired figure), but things are sort of switching if you start considering the fan as a co-author of the societal position of public figures and their lore. As for the things that changed from being a fangirl as a teen, to being a fangirl now, it just feels like I was able to remove my own shame from obsessing  and this allows me and other fangirls to gain more agency and respect over the fandom we are shaping. It also feels like less of a compensation and more of a creative, spiritual act now – maybe that’s also part of growing up!

QV: Do you think the physical embodiment of the admired stars is even relevant at all, or could we all be fangirls of mere images or data?

The interest and care I feel for the stars I admire are so deep and sincere that I cannot ignore the reality of their personas. I wanna know their biographies, I want to know what they’re saying, not what media is. It’s still a slippery slope of course, and content, whether produced with or without consent, is always embedded in a capitalistic and profit-focused context. However, I do think there are ways of focusing on accounts that try to view and research the multiple layers of stories and biographies, rather than just a one-sided notion. For example, I refused to watch any of the Britney documentaries on her, because she was not part of them and they were produced without her consent, and rather read her book and listened to reviews. 

QVI: Pop culture is often declared dead since the platformisation of the internet. It seems that microcelebrities and the relentless cycles of microtrends are taking over what mono (pop) cultures used to be beforehand. Do you feel like the notion of  Pop culture has changed over the past decade?

I do see an evolution towards fragmentation. But I think in this discourse that you mentioned, which is proclaiming the death of pop culture, there are a lot of misconceptions of scales and temporalities. And it’s almost like the internet discourse wants to be hyper fixated on its own sensation, but it’s rather a trend wave, and an undeniable demographic change in fan culture, especially since gatekeeping became kinda hot in 2021. But I believe the core engine of fandom, which comes down to its identity-forging effects, is still very much the same. I think fan culture has just emancipated itself and given up the traditional course of history. As in trends, rather appear as references than ideological beliefs. I don’t believe pop culture is dead, I believe we are simply entering a new degree of pop culture. The way in which it is exploiting certain figures is literally no different from the way it has always been.

Today, it is very noticeable how referential pop-culture is, especially if you think about how fandom is inherently a remix culture. What is happening now, is that things are being sped up and layered in an exponential yet circular way – It sort of has been like that all along, just less crazily, and on a more comprehensible scale.

On another note, with this general acceleration and with our attention economy becoming massively trimmed, I feel like fan culture has become more forgiving and softer on its edges, as scandals and downfalls of stars are accordingly happening faster, interest is lost quicker, whilst the media focused on Britney for years.

QVII: In your proposal you mention how your work aims to bridge “flawed narratives’’ of pop-culturally mediated transgressions with forms of healing. What does that look like to you?

The dark side is not necessarily within the figures but rather in how they have been portrayed by the public, for very obvious lucrative reasons. The “authorized” media, and with that journalists as well as consumers, want stories that often comprise a distortion of reality to emulate some sort of tragedy. My aim with the work is to demystify these figures and bring back sincere admiration instead of their capitalized distortions. The work is all about including emotional resonance and affective reaction of fan culture to actual events that occur to actual people. It’s an aim to place narratives into the actual human context they own. I think the notion of emancipated and self-directed fandom emerging on platforms independently of massive media monopolists, is a chance to bring back peace into the ecosystem of fandom and save it from being distorted by a linear media market.

QVIII: Lastly, how can people best stay in touch with your work (ig handle / webpage)

You can visit my website www.leadippold.com or reach out to me via leadippold@hotmail.de