You rarely get to see works as original and mindblowing as the films and prints of Rachel Maclean, who stole our hearts immediately. This lady from Scotland should be on everybody’s watchlist for sure.
If you’re near Edinburgh for some reason, go and see “I Heart Scotland” at Edinburgh Printmakers, her solo show exploring Scottish national identity and it’s founding mythologies. Presenting a body of film and print work, the exhibition examines the nation’s romantic histories through the lens of contemporary political debate, creating a complex and surreal vision of modern Scotland. Responding to the upcoming Referendum on Scottish Independence in 2014, the show explores a sense of both power and absurdity within representations of Scottish and British national pride.
Installed with a Baroque distain for emptiness, the work transforms the space into an intimate National Gallery, come shop bought Victorian castle. Maclean is the only actor or model in the work, inventing characters that toy with age and gender and refer to an array of historical figures, contemporary politicians and national stereotypes.
The series digital prints – newly commissioned and published by Edinburgh Printmakers – present semi-historical, semi-fantastical tableaus. At once alluring and monstrous, these images explore a hybrid of styles, referencing the rugged romance of Scottish Landscape painting, the all-smiling, futurist visions of SNP propaganda and the hyper-saturated pop colours of ‘Oor Wullie’.
Alongside these prints, Maclean is exhibiting a short film titled “The Lion and The Unicorn” (see clip below). Inspired by the heraldic symbols found on the Royal Coat of Arms of The United Kingdom (the lion representing England and the unicorn representing Scotland) the video uses these icons of both alliance and opposition to explore a range of contradictory standpoints on nationalism. The video features three recurrent characters: the lion, the unicorn and the queen. Through a use of costume and appropriated audio, these figures emerge from disparate genres, including shadowy historical reconstruction, playful nursery rhyme and pragmatic TV interview. Inhabiting the rich historical setting of T raquair House in the Scottish Borders, they are seen drinking North-sea oil from Jacobite crystal, dividing up the pieces of a Union Jack cake and inciting conflict over the mispronunciation of Robert Burns.
At once grotesquely positive and violently kitsch, ‘I HEART SCOTLAND’ employs dark humour to present a playful and multi-layered reading of contemporary Scottish identity.
Lolcats by Rachel Maclean
“Lolcats” — inspired by the Internet meme of the same name — explores an amalgam of past and present manifestations of cat worship. Shot entirely against green-screen the video presents a mutable space, at once a mysterious lost civilisation and a modern day touristic fun park. The narrative centres on a young female protagonist, presenting her in moments of intrigue, fear, metamorphosis and decay. Journeying through this erratic environment she encounters a bejewelled Katy Perry discussing dental hygiene with an aristocratic cat, stumbles upon an army of hostile feline cyborgs and is surgically dissected by a gothic physician.
Maclean plays every character in the film, inventing a variety of personas that mime to appropriated audio and toy with age and gender. These clones embody unstable identities: conversing, interacting and shifting between cartoonish archetypes, ghostly apparitions and hollow inhuman playthings.
Existing somewhere between the candy-coloured fantasies of ‘Disney Princess’ and the monstrous caricatures of a William Hogarth, “Lolcats” sits on a discomforting boundary between the sickly sweet and the grotesquely abject. Examining the relationship between our contemporary obsession with the personified image of the benign, doe eyed, ‘chocolate-box’ feline and a confrontation with the cold, untamed otherness of the predatory cat.
(This is a short edit from a 15-minute film)
All Parts Played By: Rachel Maclean
All images on this page are stills from Lolcats.
The Lion and The Unicorn by Rachel Maclean
This is a clip from “The Lion and The Unicorn” (2012), a 12 minute short film by Rachel Maclean, commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers and shot at Traquair House in the Scottish Borders.
The video features three recurrent characters: the lion, the unicorn and the queen, who each reference a careful amalgam of historical figures, contemporary politicians and fictional representations. Inspired by the heraldic symbols found on the Royal Coat of Arms of The United Kingdom, the lion (representing England) and the unicorn (representing Scotland), the film uses these representations of both alliance and opposition to explore the myriad, convoluted and often contradictory constructions of cultural identity that make up the unstable definitions of what it means to be Scottish or part of the Union with England.
‘Germs’ by Rachel Maclean
Germs (2013) is a 3-minute green-screen video, which follows a glamorous female protagonist through a series of advertising tropes. Moving from a perfume to a bathroom cleaner commercial, she converses with a persuasive masked woman and becomes increasingly paranoid about the omnipresence of microscopic germs. Rachel plays every character in the piece.
A Bold Yin Ltd Production for Channel 4 Random Acts
Over The Rainbow – Short Edit
Inspired by the Technicolor utopias of children’s television, Over The Rainbow (2013) invites the viewer into a shape-shifting world inhabited by cuddly monsters, faceless clones and gruesome pop divas. Shot entirely using green-screen the film presents a computer generated environment, which explores a dark, comedic parody of the fairytale, video game and horror movie genres.
(This is a short edit from the 40-minute film)
Directed by: Rachel Maclean
All Parts Played by: Rachel Maclean
Going Bananas! by Rachel Maclean
I Dreamed A Dream by Rachel Maclean
Masterpiece, by Rachel Maclean
Art video inspired by the ‘Masterpiece’.
5 Questions with Rachel Maclean
- More Rachel Maclean Videos on Youtube
- Rachel Maclean’s Homepage
- Where I Make: Rachel Maclean