February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
April 25, 2011
Contrary to what you might think, this is not a picture of princess-to-be Kate Middleton trying on her wedding dress before her upcoming nuptials on Friday. Despite its verisimilitude, this is the work of Alison Jackson (check out her website), an artist whose work explores the cult of celebrity in a unique way. By staging photos (and videos) such as this one using lookalikes, she is able to give us “access” to moments in the lives of celebrities that have somehow avoided being snapped up by the ubiquitous paparazzi. Elin beating Tiger Woods’ car with a golf club? Brad and Angelina selecting their next orphan? These are images the public wants to see, and through these simulacra we are able to view them despite their nonexistence.
This photo kept cropping up in, of all things, the TLC specials about the Royal Wedding which threatened to engulf Easter Sunday. Speculation about Kate’s wedding attire – and how it will measure up with the late Princess Diana’s – has reached a fever pitch. An army of experts have been called in to discuss what her dress might look like, what tiara she may or may not possibly wear, her hypothetical hair, makeup, shoes… It seems there are in fact two weddings going on. One is the union between two young people, the event as they will experience it “from the inside” of Westminster Abbey. The other is an enormous, hyperreal spectacle, something so virtual and layered with glossy images it may not exist at all. In the aporias or gaps between the camera flashes, is there anything happening? Do the cameras not only record but constitute this narrative?
Such questions are apparent not only in Jackson’s subversive photorealist work but in the American made-for-TV special “William & Kate,” a fictional rendering of the romance between the prince and the fashionista which played yesterday on Lifetime. With virtually no biographical material available to base this film on, it essentially tells the story of what their relationship “might” have looked like as they met and fell in love at the University of St. Andrew’s. Iconic paparazzi images – the two on a ski trip in the Alps, infamous nightclub shots, Kate on a rowing team – are reconstructed into a full-fledged (although somewhat uneven) narrative. The closing scene, a passionate kiss against an impossibly bright green-screen rendering of the African savannah, would have appeared to Baudrillard as a perfect instance of the virtual, simulated environment we all accept as natural. The film is not based on a true story, but on a fantasy inspired by a series of photographs – the simulacrum (the perfect copy sans original) threatens to replace the real.
In a final burst of artificiality that recalls Umberto Eco’s “Travels in Hyperreality,” a wax museum in London has installed a wax replica of Prince William with a ring attached to his arm. If visitors to the museum are so inclined, they can put their own finger through the ring, and thus literally recreate the photographic image of William and Kate when they announced their engagement. (Serious impostors will wear a blue dress.) By assuming the place/identity of the new princess, the redoubling effect becomes complete. Fake Kate (the lookalike) looks in the mirror at her own reflection; we look over her shoulder at this second, perhaps third re-creation, a copy of a copy of a copy. Perhaps it is not William and Kate getting married at all, but two royal screens onto which we project our own image.
Brett David Potter