What would happen if we used gamesmanship to decide our political future, if comic Internet memes took over the real world and if the values and vibes of sporting patriotism were infectious, but to a sinister degree? 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 self-made costumes and thick make-up. She superimposes the figures onto colourful backdrops using the green screen techniques of Hollywood filmmaking and draws on existing sources found on the Internet or television.
Maclean’s film LolCats (2012) takes the Internet meme of the same name as its starting point. Here the film’s lead, an Alice-in-Wonderland-like character, observes a world awash with feline attributes, from menacing workers to familiar corporate logos. Using television interviews interspersed with audio music clips, her characters mime along to pre-recorded dialogue, which she pieces together to form a dreamlike logic.
For GENERATION, Maclean has developed themes first touched on in her recent exhibition I HEART SCOTLAND (2013), which looked at popular markers of Scottish identity and the political debate around independence. Shown in the context of the Commonwealth Games, her new film A Whole New World is a black comedy, which examines what it means to be British and the ways in which national identity is constructed and deconstructed in the age of globalisation and digital connectedness. Set in a blasted post-apocalyptic landscape, the film revisits the legacy of the British Empire, drawing on video games like Prince of Persia, mining current political debates and touching on classic movie fare of foreign adventures and cross-cultural love affairs. A Whole New World doesn’t offer a singular vision of our brave new world, but a fractured and sometimes absurd universe, where ideas and identities are constantly shifting. Mixing high art and popular culture, advanced technology with traditional theatrical values, humour with serious politics, Maclean has fashioned a unique visual universe in her art, one that is as digitally sophisticated as it is handcrafted and laborious.