Rachel Maclean's 'Feed Me' is acquired by Modern One
Film by young Scottish artist is part of the collection of the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art
One of the peculiar things about modern art is that if you do something idiosyncratic, it may or may not get you noticed, and if you keep on doing odd things for a bit longer, you're liable to get labelled as 'quirky' or 'mischievous'; but if you persist with the same practice, never settling into anything more conventional or respectable, people are forced, in the end, to take your work seriously.
Something like this has happened to Scottish artist Rachel Maclean, whose film Feed Me, currently one of the major attractions at British Art Show 8, has just been acquired by the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art. Since she graduated from ECA in 2009, Maclean has been making a highly individual, technically dazzling strain of video and photographic work. Feed Me was commissioned in part by Film and Video Umbrella and Hayward Touring, and thanks to support from both Arts Council England and Creative Scotland, Maclean was for the first time in a position to write a script and hire voice actors.
If this article were in International Art English we would say something about how Maclean's work plays with notions of infantility, femininity, nationality, consumerism and desire, but that beige phrase 'plays with' doesn't come close to conveying the eye-twisting, Spongebob-meets-Žižek weirdness of her work. In all her videos Maclean is the only performer, changing her appearance with prosthetics, costumes and industrial quantities of luridly coloured makeup: A Whole New World opens with her as a ludicrously moustachioed Victorian Army chaplain, standing in front of a hellish industrial landscape and flawlessly lip-syncing to David Cameron's notoriously inane 'small island' speech, and then segues into the artist as a blue-skinned heroine ecstatically miming along to the title song being sung in an unspecified far Eastern language. To say that Maclean 'plays with' her material is a bit like saying that Victor Frankenstein played with notions of resuscitation.
Asked what she thought about her work being accepted into a public, national institution like Modern One, Maclean paid warm tribute to the various Scottish National Galleries as places that were crucial to her own development as an artist, and said 'I think it is fantastic that National Galleries are collecting new media art by young artists and building a collection which reflects the variety and nature of Scottish contemporary art, rather than the collection being the reserve of "safe" or well-established practices.'
Maclean is currently working on a commission for Home in Manchester called Wot u :-) about? and preparing for a residency at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas.
'Feed Me' is viewable at British Art Show 8, which runs at Modern One until Sun 8 May.
Rachel Maclean talks about her work at the Scottish National Gallery on Mon 2 May.