Monday, 10 April 2017

Rachel MacLean:Megalolz, Sadface emojis, and u ok hun? :-) :-( ?

Blue vomit, turds with dollar signs for eyes, caffeine fuelled Europop, and monsters dressed like Grayson Perry's alter-ego Claire. All of this can be found in Tate Britain's new installation by Rachel MacLean which she's given the social media and textspeak friendly title WOT U :- ABOUT?

At my age I shouldn't still feel a slither of naughtiness on entering a room that warns of strong adult content. At the very least I should've come to realise that it's usually disappointing. There was certainly nothing more shocking than some strong language in MacLean's show. In fact so luridly day-glo were both the posters that surrounded the room and the half-hour film that made up the bulk of the exhibition that perhaps adults should have been given a similar warning. Or maybe shades could've been handed out at the door.

The Edinburgh born, Glasgow based artist creates 'outlandish characters and fantasy worlds', think the Mighty Boosh dipped in a bucket of luminous paint, with the aim of making us think about society and identity. Repetition is another popular trope. Her parodies of social media, advertising, kids tv, and the current obsession with 'brands' are intentionally grotesque - if often a little obvious.

MacLean plays all the characters herself which is admirable and, surely, hugely time-consuming. The narrative's not exactly clear at all times but the overall message is as lucid as it is rote. There's no point trying to be anyone but youself. Beauty's only skin deep. Yada yada yada.

She's at least told the story in an interesting, and visually arresting, way. Using technology to critique our dependence on technology (it's alright for her it seems but not for us) MacLean presents us with a yellow faced, pneumatic titted, no nosed, glamorous model type who represents 'data'. She feeds her needy followers with selfies and cables and in turn checks her phone on which she's inundated with complimentary messages like:-

"u be sooo cute"

"u be workin out - wow"

But she gets hacked, seemingly by some horrific creatures that resemble the Boosh's Crack Fox, and suddenly the messages she receives aren't so pleasant at all:-

"u gonna die bitch"

"go on a diet u fat bitch"

"i gonna rip out ur cables and use them as a skipping rope"

"i gonna suck data out ur cunt"

This, naturally, upsets our virtual heroine but by logging off and going out into the real world, meeting her hackers IRL, she's able to see their true souls and they hers. Motivational quotes, sarcastic and actual, abound and maggot faced electro-gospel gives way to a finale that sees a mass singalong of some Disneyish ballad. It's undeniably hilarious. The girls in their late teens sat next to me giggled most of the way through it.

Apart from the bits they were flinching in horror at that is. It's not everyday you see an obese yellow woman being punched repeatedly in the vagina and then fisted. In both its rather lazy reliance on shock tactics and its blatantly pat message that life would be better if we all just moved offline (it wouldn't, I remember the days before social media and mass computerisation - people still used to bully and punch each other and a real punch hurts more than a virtual one whether it's in the face or the fanny) it had the air of a sixth form art project granted a larger than normal budget. An entertaining distraction for sure but probably a piece best not taken too seriously.

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