Summer 2016 International Artist-in-Residence Program

We Want Data!

  • Summer 2016 International Artist-in-Residence Program
  • In-Residence Dates: May 16,2016 - Jul 18,2016
  • Exhibition Dates: Jul 14,2016 - Sep 11,2016
  • About the artist
  • Rachel Maclean-Credit Craig GibsonRachel Maclean

    Using recent technology, Rachel Maclean constructs fantasy narratives set in computer-generated landscapes that play on thorny issues of identity, social life and politics. Maclean plays each of the characters in her films, prints and photographs, donning outlandish selfRead more

About the exhibition

Tell us about some of the imagery in your exhibition and the characters you’ve developed.
The exhibition is made up of a series of large-scale digital prints, which feature a number of costumed characters. There is a female and male figure, both inspired by the yellow nose-less emoticons of internet and smart phone messaging, who appear either beaming back at the viewer or fixated on screens. Surrounding them is a series of what I’m calling ‘plague victims’ who wear camouflage pajamas, sleeping masks, and carry signs demand- ing, “We Want Data!” They seem at once to be protesters and unconscious zombies, groping around for a lost Wi-Fi connection. The most active figures are a crowd of mangy rats, who look somewhere between the cutesy, dress-wearing mice of Disney’s Cinderella (1950) and a plague of dirty, sewer dwelling beasties. They are seen chewing on data cables, as if mainlining or hacking into pure, unfiltered data.

I intend for the prints to be read from left to right, with a gradual progression from a joyful, sunny world to something more dystopian and derelict. I have become interested in the tech industry, wearable technologies and personal data management. There is an exploration of data transfer within the prints, with cloud storage and infographic visualizations. The characters and the world they inhabit are part of a larger body of film and sculpture work I intend to continue developing over the course of the year.

What do you see as the narrative of the piece?
Normally I work within the narrative possibilities of film, however with this series I was interested in translating a filmic narrative into the still image. The prints were made using the same process as commercial trade show banner printing, but are hung like a tapestry. They signify the space of advertising and yet refer to something more complicated, at times simultaneously evoking religious imagery and grotesque cartoonish caricature.

What role do you play in the narrative?
I play all the characters within the prints, wearing prosthetic make-up and faceprint to transform myself into a variety of distinct identities. I am interested in the culture of the ‘selfie’ and more generally self-obsession and self-promotion. Using my own image is a knowing nod to this culture of self-obsession, as well as being an exploration of identity in a broader sense. I don’t create confessional self-portraits; the characters don’t have anything consciously in common with me, but instead are more like drag queen-esque, exaggerated egos, or hyperactive stereotypes.

Through the careful construction of characters I’m interested in exploring the way in which identity is formed in the contemporary Western world. The Internet has createda space in which you can create and carefully edit an ideal vision of yourself through pictures and associated information, which says less about who you are as who you want to be. In this vein, everyday make-up increasingly caters to the camera, with the facial contouring make-up of Kim Kardashian becoming a kind of 21st century stage make-up. Concurrently, there is an aspect of online identity that exists purely in the form of information related to what you view and what you buy in order to predict what you might like to purchase. In this online space, your history is not that of your ancestral lineage, bound up in a family history and experience of place, but instead a very recent series of clicks, purchases and views.

Other works in this cycle