Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Art

Tate Modern, London SE1, Gerhard Richter: Panorama from 6 October

This major retrospective exhibition coincides with Gerhard Richter's 80th birthday and spans almost 50 years of his work. One of the first German artists to reflect on the history of Nazism, he painted both members and victims of the National Socialist party. Richter's fascination with events that made history continued throughout his career; for example "September 2005", his painting of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001, which is included in the show.

Comedy

South Street Arts Centre, Reading, Paul Foot - Still Life 7 October

Following his last Edinburgh show - Ash In The Attic - the wacky and highly articulate comedian's latest set is Still Life. Foot is highly energetic onstage and has a significant following, which he calls the "Guild of Paul Foot Connoisseurs".

Music

Barbican Centre, London, EC2, Inmotion: The Cinematic Orchestra 1 October

This is the second installment of the In Motion series - a live event curated by The Cinematic Orchestra in which a selection of films will be given original scores. The collaborators in the project were invited by the band and include Dorian Concept/Tom Chant, pianist and composer Austin Peralt, underground DJ and artist Kutmah and Grey Reverend. The latter is L D Brownwhich's solo project, whose unaffected singing is accompanied by the acoustic guitar.

Talks

The French Institute, London SW7, China Miéville - My Graphic Gods 7 October

BD and Comics Passion is a new festival being held on 7-9 October by the Institut français in association with Comica Festival to celebrate the graphic novel form. Many leading British, American, French and Belgian authors will be speaking at events, one of whom is China Miéville, the multi-award winning author of Kraken, The Scar and Embassytown. Miéville will talk about his enthusiasm for comic books, discussing some neglected talents.

Theatre

National Theatre, London SE1, It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later from 7 October

Winner of the 2002 Perrier Comedy Award and countless Chortle awards, Daniel Kitson is an uncoventional and hilarious stand-up from Yorkshire. His new show was originally performed throughout the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe to sold-out audiences. The tagline describes the show as "about Everything and Nothing".

Hydar Dewachi/Owen G. Parry
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Larry is Real: how One Direction fanfiction is inspiring the London art scene

“These fictions are an opportunity to create – for pure expression in their field.

Where does the boundary lie between fanfiction and art? It’s a question that has become more and more prominent as fanfiction’s influence over popular culture continues to rise. London-based artist and Central St Martin’s lecturer Owen G Parry argues that there is no boundary at all. His latest work explores the world of “Larry Stylinson”, that is, fanfiction and fanart that explore a sexual relationship between One Direction band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson.  

Showing as part of the Jerwood Gallery’s “Common Property” exhibition, Parry’s pieces include Larry Underwater Kiss, a digital silk print, Larry!Hiroglyfics, etched drawings of the couple on Perspex alongside the slogan ship everything, and Larry!Domestic: masks of Louis and Harry in pink containers, alongside a wearable pregnant belly marked with Harry’s tattoos. The exhibiton event included a live piece of performance art, featuring One Direction lookalikes kissing, hugging and undressing one another.

For Perry, these works are just one extension of an existing artistic sphere, exploring “the figure of the fan as an unassuming model for invention, mobilization and revolt”. He told the Telegraph that Larry shippers are “just presenting the normal ideals of a relationship, but actually it’s really subversive”.

“These fictions are an opportunity to create – for pure expression in their field. Fandom is a space where anything can happen. We might go back to a genuine passion in art.”

It’s an important sentiment: fanfiction writers and fanart creators, especially those working within fandoms like One Direction’s, are often young women who are intellectually and creatively dismissed. But fanfiction often provides a space for young artists who might be marginalised in the mainstream to create artwork that reflects their experiences, whether it be by racebending or reimagining characters in different power structures and dynamics.

Shipping is a key part of that, particularly for LGBTQ fans, something perhaps flattened in Perry’s statement, “Creating relationships: this is a method in fandom called ‘shipping’, which I’ve basically taken on and applied to my art practice [...] This whole installation is me ‘shipping’ materials and ideas, theories and passions.”

Of course, as long as fans have existed, fandoms of all shapes and sizes have engaged in shipping. But Larry is a particularly controversial one, because it involves playing with, and sometimes intruding upon, the lives of two real people. Larry shippers are infamous for their dedication to the ship and their insistence that it is a genuine conspiracy, rather than a fiction.

Theories usually rest on the idea that the band’s management Modest is forcing the band members to hide their sexuality and publically date women as beards, with some going as far as to suggest that the mother of Louis Tomlinson’s child, Briana Jungwirth, had a fake pregnancy. The first replies to any One Direction member’s social media posts is usually a variation of “larry” or #LarryIsReal.

Louis Tomlinson has been particularly outspoken about the ship, labelling it “bullshit” in a 2012 tweet, and reportedly saying, “it’s actually affecting the way me and Harry are in public”.

Bandmate Liam Payne called Larry shippers “absolutely nuts”, saying the theories drive him “insane”: “when you know the ins and outs of what is going on with people it's just annoying when it's so stupid. It becomes like a conspiracy or like a cult”. Zayn Malik added in an interview last year, “It’s not funny, and it still continues to be quite hard for them. They won’t naturally go put their arm around each other because they’re conscious of this thing that’s going on, which is not even true.” Some fans argue that the band members are visibly less close as a result.

Perhaps these internal criticisms and controversies miss the point. Perry sees Larry shipping as “a safe place to test out your sexuality, a fantasy space” for many young fans. As a community brimming with “passion and love” and rebellious creativity, perhaps fan-made art can have a positive impact on the art world as a whole.

All photographs by Hydar Dewachi. All artwork by Owen G Parry. Follow his fan-influenced work at fanriot.tumblr.com.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.