The 60’s challenged orthodoxies with new and emergent voices on feminism, social and political activism, anti-war protests, all important stuff. This Allen Jones image from 1968 is risky and challenging, and easily offends. It was always guaranteed to kick off when Jones was discussed in what was then called ‘Liberal Studies’ at Manchester Poly in 1978 when I did my foundation course. Easy to see why, and this image Desire Me is relatively tame. Chair made in 1969, which is essentially a women formed as a piece of furniture had people frothing at the mouth, but I loved it. When asked about his work in general, Jones suggested to Marco Livingstone – and this is slightly abridged – that “Confronted with an abstract statement people readily defer to an expert; but confronted with an erotic statement everyone is an expert. It seems to me a democratic idea that art should be accessible to everyone on some level, and eroticism in one such level”. Great talking points, getting to the heart of what art should or ‘could’ be and ideas that were evolving alongside ones own emerging self awareness. Vastly different and at odds with anything I do in my practice but that’s what’s good.
Laura Mulvey, Griselda Pollock et al got in a real lather in the day over Jones’s work and in ‘Fears, Fantasies and the Male Unconscious or “You Don’t Know What is Happening, Do You Mr. Jones? (1972) Mulvey drew on Freudian theory calling the work fetishistic, claiming it was the result of a castration complex about which Jones was unaware and concluded, “Women are simply the scenery onto which men project their narcissistic fantasies. The time has come for us to take over the show and exhibit our own fears and desires” and she was absolutely right, it was. I loved learning about stuff like this and getting to grips with complex and contentious issues and writing about it, as I did in my dissertation way back then. And I remember seeing this slide shone through with light, as it clunked in the carousel and slipped straight into my consciousness, nestling as it did, in what was then a fledgling constellation of my historical and cultural knowledge.
The University Visual Resources Centre is not only an archive of images, it is a record of how and what we were taught in a world that wasn’t so instant, in a world where things took a little more time and were not so disposable. It would be a shame if we were to oversee the disposal of this archive.
Post Graduate Researcher, MIRIAD MMU