Premiering in De Singel, Antwerp in April 2008, Neverland is a video installation of professional Michael Jackson impersonator, Christophe Lesquesne performing as Michael Jackson. The video is installed using a technique first developed in 19th century operas, called Pepper’s Ghost. Here, however, the off-stage body is replaced by a high-resolution projected image, and the large glass is replaced by an invisible plastic film, creating the effect of a completely free-standing, 3-dimensional hologram.
Lesquene became a professional impersonator by accident – in 1982 he did an imitation of Jackson for friends at a party and afterwards the invitations quickly began. When the scandals broke 10 years later, of Jackson’s sexual abuse charges, the phone stopped ringing. Christophe was left with the excess, and absence, of his original – a body which had stopped producing. But Christophe”s body didn’t stop producing. Through his virtuosity as an imitator, he had become an after-life body, somehow more real than Jackson himself.
In the video, Lesquene, dressed as Jackson, is out of breath, sweating. His movements are always as if he is just about to move, or as if we only see him just after ‘the event’.
The viewer can approach the glass behind which this image stands in the middle of the room, coming face to face with what is neither a body nor merely an image – Life-like, but not real. The real three-dimensional image of an unreal persona, performed by a real-life imitator.
The effect is the somewhat uncertain sense – approaching a one-on-one intimacy with what is either a recognizable, larger-than-life pop-icon, or the absent, phantom body of one of the greatest disappearing acts of all time..