Alison Jackson

Alison Jackson, Bush with Rubik's Cube, 2008. Image courtesy the RBS Collection

Alison Jackson, Bush with Rubik's Cube, 2008. Image courtesy the RBS Collection

The cult of celebrity is characterised by a schizophrenic desire to believe simultaneously in immortality and mortality. An entire industry is devoted to feeding our contradictor yearning for visual proof of the ordinary as much as the extraordinary qualities of celebrities. For every still or moving image that shows the stars in their firmament, there are an equal number (posed and snatched) which capture their humanity - celebrating a marriage or the birth of a child, or unmasking the demi-gods as mere mortals, overweight, drunk, or worn out. The reality of celebrity exists somewhere in this complex interplay between public desire and the media lens. 

Working in photography, film and now sculpture, Alison Jackson (b.1970, Hampshire) explores this slippage between fantasy and reality in our contemporary obsession with celebrity culture. Well known for her photographs apparently capturing moments in the 'private' lives of media icons, her work playfully critiques out readiness to believe, as much as the paparazzi industry which continues to fuel our appetite for celebrity stories.

If 'the camera never lies', the Jackson plays on our desire for photographic 'truth', and provides the images to match - whether of incidents only documented in text (George Bush chokes on a Pretzel (2005)) ; 'unseen' footage of our media icons (William tries on Crown (2005)) ; or 'previously undiscovered' footage of icons lost to the age of the long lens camera (s in her series of Marilyn images). Jackson uses celebrity look-alikes in posed scenarios to achieve her images, but the work depends for its appearance of reality at least as much on our willingness to be convinces, as on the convincing likeness to a look-alike. 

In her work for MADE UP, Jackson moved for the first time since she was at art school from the two-dimensional media of photography and film, into three-dimensional space, to continue to explore the extent to which celebrity dominates our ‘real lives’. Visitors to the Biennial 2008 may or may not have been surprised to encounter George Bush puzzling over a Rubik’s cube in the Tate Café. 

Jackson’s hyper-real rendering of the leader of the free world married technology with public perception to create a portrait of the President as he existed in our imagination. While Jackson’s sculpture may have shared its materials and techniques with the figures that populate Madame Tussaud’s, her work removed the President, physically and conceptually, from the shrine of celebrity, and re-situated him firmly in the everyday. If our experience of celebrity is generally at one remove, here Jackson brought us into an uncomfortably close encounter with our own voyeurism.

Alison Jackson at Liverpool Biennial 2008

Bush with Rubik's Cube,
Intervention sculpture
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Supported by

Courtesy of Hamilton's Gallery