The Queen sips a cup of tea in bed surrounded by her corgis; the Duchess of Cambridge cheekily tries on the crown; Donald Trump plays croquet with the Queen at Buckingham Palace – these are some of the amusing and highly stylised scenes created by infamous British artist and photographer Alison Jackson. Using uncanny lookalikes, and an ambitious level of production for each scene, the artist deftly creates images that appear to disclose the secret lives of high profile figures. Shot through a voyeuristic and clandestine viewpoint, Jackson’s works both amuse and provoke. The absurdity and humour of the situations she creates for her ‘cast’, is underpinned by a more unsettling exploration of the topical notion of fake news and society’s obsession with fame and celebrity.
Fake news is a term that is now regularly used to describe the spread of misinformation and propaganda that is now considered as “one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order”. We are all barraged by a constant flux of images, news outlets, shared posts and tweets that is inescapable, and challenging to decipher and navigate. Jackson feeds off this insatiable desire for ‘news’ and a glimpse into the private lives of public figures. Seemingly fleeting and capturing a moment, the artist’s photographs are the result of a meticulous and demanding production method. Jackson’s endless search for lookalikes is only one aspect of this rigorous process, more akin to a theatre production or performance. Models undergo a labour-intensive transformation involving costumes, make-up and sometimes prosthetics, to transform them into the iconic and recognisable figures of our time. This manipulation of the image, and of the people featured, mirrors the frightening reality of the dissemination of information that we are all exposed to.
This collection of photographs appear to celebrate and relish in the glamour, seduction and importance of high society. However, the artist wittily juxtaposes these figures with low brow scenes of the everyday – for example the Queen visiting bookmaker William Hill, or sharing a KFC with Donald Trump. The artist’s approach immediately highlights the ludicrousness of our obsession and reverence of the celebrity cult, but it also demonstrates how easily images and information can be manipulated and exploited for personal and/or political gain. In one photograph, the viewer is seduced by the tender caress between JFK and Marilyn Monroe seen through a window, yet the composition echoes the predatory approach of the paparazzi. In these works the artist creates a fantastical, parallel world that reflect our dreams and aspirations. But they also hint at the precarious trajectory and destabilizing effect of the mass media, where the public can be deceived, incited and misguided from the truth.
*Project executed through former company Mehta Bell Projects.