Why Are Leonardo DiCaprio's Characters Running Around Frieze?

By Loney Abrams for Artspace.com

You may have already heard the rumor: that a bunch of Leonardo DiCaprio impersonators are wandering around Frieze. If you have, then you’re already part of the performance piece, which lists its materials as “characters, impersonations, rumors.” Orchestrated by artist Dora Budor, the performance involves three actors playing characters from three of DiCaprio’s recent films: The Revenant, Catch Me If You Can, and The Wolf of Wall Street.


“The performance imagines the temporal compression of different characters that Leo DiCaprio has played,” Budor tells Artspace Magazine. The piece is inspired by a play called Six Characters in Search of an Author by Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello, who writes about how actors and characters are separate people, and both of them play a role in a performance. When the absurdist play premiered, the audience could not come to terms with its illogical progression. “Manicomio!” the audience shouted. Manicomio! is the title of Burdor’s performance; it means “madhouse” in Italian.

But Budor’s actors aren’t merely dressed up as lookalikes—they’re performing characters in a fictional world where their original set has been replaced by an art fair. “They’re extrapolated from the films and dropped into a new setting, still in their role,” says Budor. As the fair unfolds over the weekend, so does the appearance of The Revenant character in accordance with the plot progression in the film. Today, for instance, he’ll be bloody, reflecting the bear attack he endured in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes. On Saturday he’ll be covered in snow.


Each character is “compressed” in a different way. While the burly frontiersman’s physical appearance parallels with his on-screen counterpart, The Wolf of Wall Street character, stockbroker Jordan Belfort, treats the fair as his set, acting out with in-character tirades and outbursts. Catch Me If You Can Leo, dressed as a pilot (who in the film, is also an impersonator) moves quickly throughout the fair, making it tough to catch a glimpse of him at all.

These three characters have more in common than Leonardo DiCaprio; they’re also characters based on real people. The Revenant is build around on a novel of the same name, which recounts the experiences of frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is also adopted from a book—a memoir by stockbroker Jordan Belfort. And Catch Me If You Can is based on the life of Frank Abagnale, a famous con man. Budor is materializing a character that has been filtered through much iteration. They are, at once, Leonardo DiCaprio the actor, a character as portrayed by the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and the real-life person that that character is based on.


Playing with an audience’s perception of fiction and reality isn’t new for Budor. In the past she’s hired a stunt double to play her. In another project, she worked with mixed martial arts fighters to make a video that was somewhere between scripted and documented. In the case of Frieze, the artist was comissioned by Cecilia Alemani to make the piece as part of the Frieze Projects program that has as its theme “the act of seeing and being seen.” If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the act seeing some “DiCaprios” off-screen this weekend.