Fake vs. Reality. The retrospective on Alison Jackson

There is the photo with Mick Jagger ironing in his underwear; the one in which Kim Kardashian gives birth in the company of Kanye West and the crew of a reality show; the ever-present British royalty, portrayed even in the most unlikely intimate moments; and then perhaps the most amusing image of all, with Donald Trump engaged on the desk of the Oval Room in a sexual relationship with a model: no less than Miss Mexico, it is discovered by reading the headband of the beauty contest he wore as a trophy of war. Not original photos, of course, but works of art, signed by one of the most irreverent and mocking goals of all time: that of Alison Jackson, to whom the Camera Work gallery in Berlin (from March 7 to April 18) dedicates a retrospective with over forty works entitled Fake vs. Reality.

Jagger Ironing (This Is Not Mick Jagger) “, 2003.


By hiring impersonators of famous people to stage voyeuristic images on the edge of absurdity (without ever being completely implausible), for almost twenty years the British artist has investigated and exposed the disruptive power of photography – and not only the more purely tabloid – to mystify and distort reality, as well as to feed the public’s morbid curiosity for the intimate sphere of celebrities.

“Kim and Kanye Reality-Tv Birth (This Is Not Kim Kardashian and Kanye West)”, 2013.


The word “fake” in the exhibition title, he points out immediately, does not refer to his works. «While digitally retouched photographs differ in varying degrees from reality, right down to the extreme case of images entirely generated by the computer, mine – strictly analogical – are to be considered, in all respects, authentic; with stunt doubles instead of celebrities, of course, but still authentic. Not false, therefore, but – to use a distinction dear to the French philosopher Jean Baudrilliard – “simulations”: aimed at reminding us, with their ambiguity, of how photography, for its very reductive and fragmentary nature, and for its ease with which may be subject to manipulation, effectively makes the physical presence of the photographic subject superfluous. Whether we like it or not, we are all replaceable by images, with all the risks that this entails ».

“Diana and Marilyn Shopping (This Is Not Diana and Marilyn Monroe)”, 2001.


In parallel, Jackson’s work is to be read as an ironic commentary on the cult of celebrity, and the morbid curiosity that accompanies it. Among the highlights of the exhibition are the shots that portray American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe – double, once again – captured in the intimacy of a room. There is no historical evidence or official confirmation of the alleged flirtation between the two, but only rumors, encouraged by the winking tone with which the actress intoned that “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” that went down in history; yet, faced with these delicate simulations of Jackson, it is difficult not to abandon oneself, even if only for a few moments, to the voyeuristic illusion of being in the presence of proof of that love.

(Keep on)

Opening: “Queen Outside William Hill, (This Is Not Queen Elizabeth)”, 2003, one of the images of the artist Alison Jackson exhibited in the exhibition “Fake vs. Reality ”, at the Camera Work gallery in Berlin (from 7/3 to 18/4).

Read the full article in the March issue of Vogue Italia, on newsstands.

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