Q&A with Alison Jackson, the Photographer Exploring the “Cult of Celebrity”
On the Artist
Alison Jackson, a contemporary BAFTA and multi award-winning artist, explores the cult of celebrity - an extraordinary phenomenon created by the media, publicity industries, and the public figures themselves.
“We think we know celebrities intimately, but we only know them through imagery, very few of us know them for real.”
Her work raises questions about fake news and alternative facts. She makes convincingly realistic work about celebrities doing things in private using cleverly styled lookalikes.
“Likeness becomes real, and fantasy touches on the believable. I create scenarios we have all imagined but never seen before...”
On the Art
Mental Images is a time-based artwork featuring a collection of satirical photographs taken by Jackson of a realistically portrayed “Queen Elizabeth II” in various scenarios and situations. The work gives a subversive look at a “day in the life” of Her Majesty in celebration of her Platinum Jubilee.
Mental Images was created using Async's 24-hour template, allowing the work to change throughout the day.
“The Queen is one of the most famous and powerful celebrities right now. As we approach her Platinum Jubilee, she is a master of the media, and has kept us engaged, speculating, and voyeuristic for 70 years. My Async artwork, and very first NFT, takes us through 24 hours in the life of Her Majesty.”
Alison Jackson began this body of work when Princess Diana died in a tragic car crash in 1997.
“The word from the news media was 'to make the world cry', even though very few people really knew her, and were intimately grieving her loss. Celebrity is a media construction, so I created my own Princess Diana, using a cleverly styled lookalike, and had her pose with giving the finger! It felt the most natural thing that Princess Diana might have done.
We live in a mediated world of screens, imagery and internet, and photography is extremely seductive, we simply cannot look away from our screens. We're living in this artificial, constructed world where you can't tell what is real or fake, and we really don't care anymore.”
Although this is Jackson's first NFT, she has been interested in them for a long time. She relates current trends in the market with her own art practice:
“The top trending designs are all about identity; customised characters, reflecting attributes or styles that the owner has, or wants to have. We are all keen to find an icon which represents ourselves in the virtual world, the virtual world is all that matters.”
“We can't tell what's real and what's fake anymore. I create scenarios we have all imagined but never seen before. I try to raise questions about how we want to see into others' private lives, but at the same time feel we shouldn't. We are hungry for that supposed 'inside scoop' of what it is like to live a Royal life. The Queen has always been a master of what she has chosen to show us. You can't imagine The Queen on the loo, but I am trying to break that taboo.”
Mental Images is an exploration of celebrityhood and voyeurism by looking into the “life” of one of the most private and illusive figures in the world. Fact and fiction blur in an attempt to contrive a scene that although is a piece of satire, succeeds in constructing a narrative that feels private, candid and authentic.
“Our most important lives are those we live out on screens. Kim Kardashian, Brad Pitt, Ariana Grande — they are entirely replaceable through imagery, all it takes is a photograph of the narrative the celebrity wants to put out or a selfie taken at the right angle, and suddenly the celebrity's narrative is set.”
Jackson provides more insight on her process:
“When I create my lookalikes, styling with wigs, prosthetics, makeovers, and costumes, they turn from 'nobody' to diva in 30 seconds. Identity crises ensue! It's very easy to read the script in front of the camera and it looks totally believable. I am asking you to question what you see. I have always wanted to create virtual fake celebrity worlds and bring alive your imaginations and meet the 'celebrities.'”
Upcoming projects by Alison Jackson
- A musical with Richard Thomas: February 8-9, 2022.
- Plus, “you too can be a celebrity! Let me style you as your favourite celebrity and do a live photo shoot with you on stage. Will you pass as the real deal?” Check it out at Edinburgh Festival, August 3-23, 2022.