Working across many disciplines, Jackie takes an archetypal image, object, or film as a starting point, and then explores ideas predominantly bound up with memory and cultural recognition. It is this play between creating something sincere and emotionally resonant – even though largely based on second-hand experience of film or cultural phenomena – that is the really innovative area of this work. She takes the frustrations and banality of everyday life and offers us an escape into the freedom that daydreams allow in an unashamedly nostalgic matinée-reverie of silk and roses.
While Jackie often works in a site-specific response, 310 is subtly different: the works had their genesis during her employment in a hotel. It is an archetypal city hotel, a corporate international chain with modular rooms and an air of comfort and style, with ‘personal touches’ to make the traveller feel pampered. Chettur creates a more authentic personal intervention in this one particular room, creating hand-made props and placing them into this otherwise uniform environment. The room becomes a filmic set as she makes these ‘Technicolor’ interventions to camera.
Of the six images here some are objective documents, while others are the results of her escapist interventions. They are saturated, rich and unreal – striking a fine balance between luxury and nausea. Occasionally these props are deliberately revealed as illusion – a flower that is clearly folded paper, the dyed crêpe stems giving the game away – and we are challenged to keep a sense of self-deception. Can we sustain the belief that the scene extends beyond the edges of the image and opens out into the implied Technicolor reality beyond? Or is it enough to imagine the meticulous toil of the artist, folding, pinning and sewing her way out of the bland environment she finds herself in?
Previously Chettur has made reference to Salman Rushdie’s description of The Wizard of Oz: “In its most potent emotional moment, this is unarguably a film about the joys of going away, of leaving the greyness and entering the colour, of making a new life in a place where there isn’t any trouble.” In Chettur’s world the two states are much more closely linked; both states are in colour, it is the intervention that sets them apart. Chettur fuses the two, the all-encompassing veneer of the present day and the idealised imagined era where belief could make things happen. Like Dorothy we don’t know if what happened was real or a dream, but the fantastic world created was still a place of fear, heartbreak, fakery and parting. Even in our dreams we are tied to the stuff of us.
Jackie Chettur would like to thank Benjamin Miller, Alison Harris, Matthew Richardson and the Marriott Hotel for their cooperation in making this work possible.