Alison Jackson in Conversation with Simon Baker

Chelsea Salon is a peer-to-peer network of artists working in fluctuating institutional settings. Chelsea Salon is a collaborative effort with multiple platforms through which students, alumni, and professional artists have had the opportunity to meet in a variety of spaces, exchange ideas and forge productive relationships with artists and art institutions.

One of the features of the Chelsea Salon programme  is the series of talks organised by Laura Carew of Chelsea Salon. The talks are an example of the aims of Chelsea Salon to create a community of practice between current students at Chelsea College of Arts and its alumni. This forum is intended as an opportunity for artists to receive feedback on their practice and to experiment with ideas arising from their research. It is intended to expand the professional practice development of the artists involved. Although centred around Chelsea, it is intended to be inclusive and open.

Carew said, ‘We have probably all giggled at Alison Jackson’s images whether it be Elton John having an enema or Tony Blair looking down Cherie’s bikini. All, by the way, are situations that are credible, but which we also know are a set up. The humour is powerful but there is serious intent here. At a time when the photographic image has become ubiquitous as has our obsession with celebrity, Alison Jackson poses some important questions about authenticity and voyeurism.

Theoretically we all know that the camera can lie but we are inclined to believe and want to believe what we see. What is authentic anyway? As Warhol said “Who wants the truth? That’s what show business is for, to prove that it’s not what you are that counts, it’s what they think you are.” This encapsulates the post-modern concept of truth as a subjective value.

The photograph is more seductive than the reality. We project our fantasies on images of celebrities who conveniently cannot answer back. We feel we know them but of course we don’t. We seek our identity in public figures.

No public figure was more subjected to this treatment than Princess Diana. Voyeurism reached its zenith. We can only begin to imagine what Warhol would have made of it all. Following the death of Princess Diana, the almost pornographic detailing of her death and the outpouring of grief that engulfed the country, Jackson made her name with a series of disturbing works culminating in an image which still resonates. This is her notorious photograph of 1999 which depicts Princess Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed with their imaginary mixed race love child. There was an uproar and this uproar only served to underline the implicit racism in the viewers.

Jackson turns the tables on us. WE are implicated in the voyeurism. Photography she has said is, “a slimy deceitful medium,” which, “tells only a partial truth.”’

The in conversation between Alison Jackson and Simon Baker on the 28th of Oct 2015 at the Chelsea College of Arts lecture theatre. Chelsea Salon is the subject of CCW PhD student Joshua Y’barbo’s study into self-institutional art practice and institutional critique of the art school as is an overlooked site of critique neglected for art’s institutions of display, galleries and museums.  His PhD aims to explore new approaches to institutional critique by analysing the manoeuvrable practices of Chelsea Salon  and will contribute to knowledge by generating a theory of interstitial pedagogy that shifts between institutions.

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