In our latest blog we’ve been fortunate enough to get hold of a rare interview with Catherine Duquette as she talks fame, process, stardom, what it’s like to be super famous and why we all want to be it.
Catch Catherine in Celebrity Bound running from 29 – 30 March. Book your tickets here.
Recently, I scored a rare glimpse into the inner life of performer-writer Catherine Duquette and her much anticipated UK premiere on March 29. We sat together at Hotel Adlon, a Berlin landmark haunted by the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Michael Jackson, Barack Obama, and a slew of Hollywood stars who’ve illuminated the Berlinale’s red carpets over the last 67 years. In this exclusive interview, the artist talks fame, process, and the artifice of this very exchange.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
Thank you for implicating me in this dead but sacred ritual.
Celebrity Bound is a show about trying to become a celebrity. Tell us, why fame?
As a celebrity myself (super famous), I’ve heard loads of celebrities talk about fame, which makes me an expert on the subject. Everyone loves an expert.
But why not something more … political?
Have you seen who’s in the White House? Fame is a form of power. It tenders access to people, places, things. I have access to you; you have access to me, a celebrity. This interview tells the world we have something to say. Ergo power.
No, you’re brilliant.
That felt good.
Didn’t it? The “fame machine” is a conceit for the way we organize our lives and shape our identities, and whether we like it or not, it exists on micro/macro, local/global levels. Think high school, city council, corporations, the London fringe theatre scene, politics – an individual always surfaces that we unconsciously or willfully measure ourselves against. The most popular or recognized person, due to their visibility, is often the target.
But isn’t the target an expert or an especially talented person?
Having a quality that distinguishes you from the pack is certainly one of the tricks to becoming a celebrity. However, the fame machine – both creating and sustaining fame – is an entirely separate operation from expertise or talent. There are plenty of wildly talented people who never reach stardom just as there are plenty of talentless hacks who are wildly famous. (See my response to your earlier question about politics.)
So, tell me more about this “fame machine.”
Well, I’m a packaged good to be consumed before its expiry date. Everyone is perpetuating this illusion; the only variables are scale and scope. We have the marketers, the media, the celebrities, the consumers. In other words, the chemists, the pushers, the pills, the users. The pill can come in many different flavors, shapes, and substances; it can be all natural and organic or chemically manufactured, prescription or recreational. Everyone wants their hit.
But what is this hit? What are people looking for in celebrities?
A place to project their desires. On one hand, people want to believe in someone – something outside of themselves that provides hope – a sense of purpose in a meaningless existence, something that confirms that the extraordinary exists beyond their ordinary lives and that it’s attainable. On the other, people want someone to destroy, to hold power over in a powerless world, to yank from their thrones as quickly as they were crowned, so as to alleviate the shame of not having attained the extraordinary themselves.
What are celebrities looking for in fame?
Different things depending on the individual. Power. Access. Influence. Validation. Ego-stroking. The means to do more work they care about. Sometimes fame arrives unexpectedly. The problem is – and I can say this because I’m a celebrity (super famous) – there’s a gap between how we perceive ourselves and the person we want to be, a gap between our notions of success and our so-called arrival. It never feels how you think it will feel. The extraordinary is in fact quite ordinary. Celebrity Bound reckons with this gap.
Where did the idea for Celebrity Bound come from?
Frustration. Disgust. Envy. Shame. I’ve always negotiated fantasies of fame, but reality never matches up to fantasy. If I held onto these fantasies, I’d be doomed to fail! The fantasy is what holds all of us back from asking questions, challenging the status quo. We settle for inspiration versus perspiration, for daydreaming instead of doing. Most people don’t have the means to do anything else; they toil just to put food on the table. Daydreaming is a natural reprieve. Celebrities are a natural reprieve. But I’m tired of daydreaming. All of this sounds cliché, but I’m a celebrity (super famous).
If you’re already a celebrity, how can you make a show about becoming famous?
Firstly, you can never have too much fame. Secondly, I’m only trying on celebrity. I’m learning a craft that can potentially increase my visibility, expand my audience, and garner more influence artistically in hopes of exorcising the fantasy of fame. The show is a tug of war between being bound by fame and being bound for fame.
Fascinating. So you’re not really famous?
I’m interviewing myself.
You didn’t answer the question.
I’ve read countless celebrity interviews, watched talk shows, analyzed gestures and red carpet walks, deconstructed celebrity rhetoric, tackling Oprah, Lady Gaga, Ellen, Marina Abramović and many more. I explore these onstage and exploit the star-making conventions of theatre.
Answer the question. Are you famous?
The problem is, the celebrity is hackneyed. Social media, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram – we’re so inundated by fame, nothing stands out. Not to mention, moments of conflict (like when celebrities refuse to answer a question in an interview) have revealed the mysterious inner workings of the fame machine – how fame gets made. That’s why Celebrity Bound goes further. The show encourages my audience-collaborators to break out of their unquestioned routines. It builds f ame by inverting it, all the while challenging the audience’s role as celebrity spectator/creator.
The celebrity is dead. Long live the celebrity!