On the start of a new year, we are already hit by the dreary news commentary of the pitfalls of 2016. So, we are unsurprisingly walking into 2017 with not quite the usual bouts of optimism. However, stumbling across new quirky video artist Rachel Maclean, has unveiled a startlingly new perspective. Rachel Maclean’s It’s Whats Inside That Counts series is one of her most popular works currently exhibited in the Tate modern, but it is most probably not everyone’s cup of tea. The videos featuring strange noseless Simpson-like creatures flying around in pink skies could be accused of being an improper art-form. Yet if this is true, why would there be such an interest? For these videos, using bright colours and idyllic dream landscapes, satirise rather than parody the modern defects of society.
In Royal Academy magazine, Anna Coatman compares her to feminist artists Cindy Sherman and Lynn Hershman Leeson. The fact Maclean dresses up as each character in It’s What’s Inside that Counts is inspired by the work of Sherman, and the exploration of female identities within her photographs. The theme of false beauty is depicted in Dolls Clothes 1975. It is also explored in Maclean’s nightmarish video Eyes 2 Me starring a garish doll and a male voiceover, demonstrating a masculine dominance within the entertainment business. There is also an obvious connection between the camera-headed woman in Lynn Horseman Leeson’s photograph Shutters in 1986, and the multitude of iphones showing how technology can be used to undermine rather than strengthen the public. This is even more apparent in the title We Want Data projecting Maclean’s hatred of contemporary cultures of narcissism and the selfie. However, unlike Sherman or Hershman Leeson she has looked beyond just the contemporary. The use of both eighteenth century figures and Egyptian scenery in Lolcats highlights how expectations from the past are still prominent within our culture. The alarming alien like creations give off a futuristic vibe.
Yet, as mentioned earlier Maclean’s work is also positive, encouraging change and solutions. For the title itself It’s What’s Inside that Counts encourages viewers to drop their ‘narcisstic’ selves. Despite her cynicism of the millennial generation, she is also supportive of it too. Her choice of using video rather than a more traditional media such as paint reveals an appreciation and acceptance of technology. Video is more than just one of many art-forms: video contains music, acting and animation. It involves green screen, photoshop and inserted commentary from political speeches. Not to mention the carefully designed and bizarre costumes involving complex prosthetic makeup. Her video Over the Rainbow is inspired by legendary The Wizard of Oz and mocks celebrity culture. Even more importantly, the fact her work can be viewed on Youtube and her website makes her work more accessible to a wider audience. So, shake off your mid-winter blues and prepare to be amused if not slightly alarmed by Rachel Maclean’s wacky imagination.