NeueHouse is proud to partner with Fotografiska to present a preview of Truth is Dead, an exhibition by photographer Alison Jackson, opening on November 20th.
More timely than ever, we hold a mirror up to our celebrity-obsessed culture and ask ourselves the question: What is real and what is fake?
by Richard G. Smith, Editor of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies
Alison Jackson ́s work is about voyeurism, our need to believe, and simulation. She cleverly uses actors or employs lookalikes of celebrities and public figures to produce convincingly realistic paparazzi or documentary style photographs of the intimate, often salacious, imagined private lives of many of the world’s most famous and infamous ‘icons’ or well-known individuals: Donald Trump, the British Royal Family, Marilyn Monroe, Kim and Kanye West, Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham, are but a few who feature in her works. Jackson’s photographs are not only funny and well-staged, not only designed to titillate the public and make you do a double take, but are also thought-provoking because they are a challenge to take the action of her photographs seriously. She is not imitating, feigning, counterfeiting, representing, explaining, or merely presenting celebrity culture, but is provoking you to consider the possibility that her photographs are the world of celebrity culture.
It does not matter that her photographs do not, and are not intended to represent any actual event that has taken place, nor that will take place, precisely because her photographs have agency in-themselves, with nothing behind them they are not the causes or effects of actions, but are actions in their own right. Jackson’s photographs are a part of, not apart from, the cult of celebrity. Jackson’s spoofing of any celebrity only ever serves to make them yet more famous, to exist only more intensely in the public imagination, to get even more attention, to make them more real than real: that is to say, hyperreal and obscene.
Alison Jackson is not asking you to decode her photographs, for you to think of them as somehow political or ideological critiques of this or that celebrity, or to think of her photographs as seeking to unmask the ‘truth’ of celebrity culture, because her point is that it is the simulation itself, the culture of celebrity, that is obscene, and that the simulation that is ‘celebrity culture’ is immune to any obvious critique beyond social commentary precisely because it intrinsically throws into doubt any distinction between ‘real’ and ‘fake’, ‘true’ and ‘false’, or ‘original’ and ‘copy’.
A celebrity world where there is no separation of image and world, of sign and referent, of signifier and signified, of abstract and concrete, or eye and world, disallows the opening of any critical space or gaze on the obscenity of celebrity culture. Jackson’s photographs show that there is no longer a scene because everything is obscene in a celebrity culture that is defined by the end of privacy and a pornographic like proximity where everything must be known and shown, on full display all the time.
"The truth is dead. Nothing we are shown can be trusted, everything can be faked and nothing is authentic. What does this knowledge do to us?" —Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson is a BAFTA and multi-award winning English artist whose works have attracted extensive TV and press coverage. She trained in London at both the Chelsea College of Art and Design, and the Royal College of Art, and has subsequently worked across many media and arts platforms: in television, film, theatre, digital, books, opera, and commercial advertising. Her photographic portraits, life-like sculptures, films and videos have been exhibited in numerous galleries, museums, art fairs and public collections worldwide including Tate Modern (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
Richard G. Smith works at Swansea University in Wales. He is the Editor of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, and his most recent book is Jean Baudrillard: the Disappearance of Culture, Uncollected Interviews (Edinburgh University Press, 2017).
Exhibition & Events
Opening Night: An Evening with Alison Jackson
Friday, November 20th – 7 PM
Join us for a first-look at the exhibition followed by a conversation with Alison Jackson about her work, process and how she views our celebrity-obsessed culture. This outdoor, open air event will feature a reimagining of British High Tea with specialty cocktails and a few surprise guests.
November 23rd – December 18th