You usually find Jocelyn Allen’s face at the centre of her own work. As she embraces awkwardness, she is often captured halfway through a gawky movement with a vacuous gaze and with the corners of her mouth pointing downwards. Being an artist in 2020 who focuses mainly on self-portraiture, Allen’s art addresses expectations of self-presentation within social media culture. But Allen questions far older narratives than these; of ownership of the body, self-esteem and of appearances.
If you visit Allen’s Instagram page you will notice how her self-portraits contrast to the rest of the mosaic of Instagram images. By not smiling, Allen teases the world around her. Often, personal stories and experiences are intertwined with Allen’s art pieces. Titles such as Smile Love and Nice Hair, Shame About Your Face are directly plucked from real life, from when her own appearance has been shoved in her face by verbal comments. I Fucking Hate Instagram shows how our technology follows these expectations, in a screen-shot of Allen’s indifferent expression, where the seemingly well-meaning selfie tool remarks: “recommend shooting with a positive face”. Whether we like it or not, we are demanded to relate to our own appearance. Allen embraces this by making herself an active agent in this relation; stepping into a territory both uncharted and terribly awkward.
Using her own body as a medium, Allen highlights the expectations of her observers. Creating an image and subsequently posting it for the world to see are different parts of a process revolving around manifesting her body as her own. Allen’s art intermingles with a narrative of acceptance and growth while viewing herself. In conversation with its viewers, Allen’s art becomes cathartic and playful at once.
Jocelyn Allen (1988) was born in Birmingham, United Kingdom. She lives and works in Liverpool, UK, and holds an MA in Photography from the London College of Communication. Allen has contributed to many exhibitions and festivals, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. To name a few: Girl Gaze: Journeys Through the Punjab & the Black Country, UK (UK/IND), FreshFaced+WideEyed at The Photographers Gallery, London (UK), Landskrona Foto Festival (SWE), V Art Center, Shanghai (CHI), British Council, New Delhi (IND) and Guernsey Photography Festival (UK). Allen has also been featured in publications such as the British Journal of Photography, NEON Magazine and Oh Comely.