It's only mock 'n' roll but we like it

An exhibition about the cult German rockers Lustfaust left many people puzzled. That's because the band never existed. Alice Jones meets the man behind the myth

Tomorrow night, the winner of Beck's Futures 2006 will be announced, and Jamie Shovlin is widely tipped to walk away with the £20,000 prize. The 27-year-old artist's Lustfaust: A Folk Anthology 1976-1981, a lovingly assembled collection of memorabilia relating to a Krautrock band, stands out in a motley shortlist that includes the text of Joyce's Ulysses re-ordered alphabetically and a rack of size-13 shoes. Along with crackly recordings, badges and fanzines, Shovlin appears to have reunited former Lustfaust fans, recording their memories and displaying the covers they designed for their cassette recordings - Lustfaust encouraged fans to send them blank tapes on to which the band would record their latest release, before posting them back.

And yet Lustfaust, the band so exhaustively documented here, never existed. The whole exhibit is a fake. While Duncan Macmillan in The Scotsman dismissed the piece as "futile", Waldemar Januszczak in The Sunday Times was particularly taken by Shovlin's "creepy and fascinating" spectacle, declaring: "I'd go for Shovlin's tribute to the noisy Lustfaust, on the grounds that winning a pile of money with a piece about a band that gave away their stuff for free has a nice conceptual twist to it."

But Januszczak and others who have been taken in by this bogus tribute shouldn't be too hard on themselves - Shovlin has created a masterful, elaborate piece of fakery. A thorough researcher need only Google the name, and an entire page of web-links pops up, from Lustfaust's Myspace profile, complete with mp3, to an entry on Wikipedia and even a very rare recording of Lustfaust's album Uberblicken/ Uberzeugen on eBay (sadly no longer for sale), not to mention www.lustfaust.com.

At the ICA, Shovlin has filled three vitrines with a meticulously detailed history of the band and its discography. The story is backed up by yellowed newspaper clippings, the odd black-and-white photograph of on-stage guitar thrashing, a video testimonial from a surviving member and the ephemera of fandom including a pair of battered trainers with "Lust" and "Faust" tattooed across the front in biro. And all the time, in the background, rasps and grinds the metallic sound of Lustfaust - though only in one-minute samples, as a result of supposed acrimonious legal wrangling.

The fictional fans are given plausible back-stories and distinctive styles. There is the groupie who slept with the band's drummer to get back at her "idiot" boyfriend, the rebellious teenager who hates his father ("They [the tapes] have become the only connection that remains with the old bastard. Burn them if you like") and the embarrassed middle-aged man who prefers to forget the foibles of youth. "The stories are generic enough that people can identify with them and understand that they may have happened," Shovlin explains. Their "home-made artwork" incorporates myriad influences, from Bridget Riley and pop art to pornography and Spirograph doodles.

"I don't think that the ultimate aim of the work is to trick someone into thinking that Lustfaust existed," Shovlin says. "It's just slightly humorous when that happens." While fooling visitors affirms Shovlin's skill (he admits to finding it "satisfying"), he believes that the artifice needs to be uncovered for the piece to function fully. So he leaves the odd clue along the way, including the notes of the "curator", which describe the band as veering "dangerously close to Spinal Tap-isms" and label them "an obscurantist's dream".

This is not the first time that Shovlin has toyed with the boundaries between fact and fiction. In 2004, he sold a collection of sketches by the 13-year-old schoolgirl Naomi V Jelish, who had gone missing with her mother and siblings in 1991, to Charles Saatchi for £25,000. At the exhibition, Jelish's drawings were accompanied by newspaper articles relating to her disappearance and personal effects gathered from the abandoned family home by her science teacher, John Ivesmail. Neither Jelish nor Ivesmail existed - both are anagrams of the artist's name - and newspapers gleefully seized on the idea that Saatchi had been hoaxed. But that "was not the case", Shovlin sighs. "He fully knew what was going on. But the more I think about it, the more it adds another layer to the piece."

It would be unfair to write off Shovlin's works as a mere jape. "My original goal was to draw attention to the fact that what you see in a museum or gallery is being mediated by whoever is presenting it," he says. "What interests me are stories which can be divulged and extrapolated from a collection of material. Whether that story is real or false doesn't make too much of a difference to me."

Shovlin is thrilled to see the fruits of his labour take on a life of their own. "Now Lustfaust have everything a band would have - music, fans, websites. At the beginning I asked, 'What generates the identity of the band? What substantiates it physically?' All those elements, we now have. Regardless of beginning fictionally, they are now a band." Just don't expect to see them on Top of the Pops any time soon.

To 14 May, ICA, London SW1 (020-7930 3647; www.ica.org.uk)

Arts and Entertainment
music

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain