What does political satire look like in the age of Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok? Increasingly, artists are entering these contentious spaces by using virtual reality technology to untangle today’s most pressing problems in our society. Among them is Scottish artist Rachel Maclean who explores the controversies encircling Brexit in her first VR piece. Sardonically titled I'm Terribly Sorry, the piece will be on view at the Casino Luxembourg Forumd’Art Contemporain from February 29 until April 19, 2020.
In I'm Terribly Sorry, the themes of identity politics and tech addiction unfold in a post-Brexit dystopian British urban landscape overrun by manic tourism and filled with oversized Union Jack-emblazoned merchandise, skyscraper-sized Big Ben key rings, and gigantic teapots — aka, the superficial touchstones of Britishness and British culture. In the virtual space, the viewer is approached by several privileged city dwellers, each of whom has a comically large smartphone in place of a human head. The viewer can, in turn, snap photos of passersby and landmarks with a smartphone while wandering around in this digital landscape steeped in uncomfortable voyeurism. It’s all a not-so-subtle ode to our selfie-obsessed world and the 21st-century desire for constant documentation. Through the lens of dark humor, I'm Terribly Sorry is an insightful exploration of social media’s dark underpinnings as well as what the encroaching digital world is doing to our relationships with one another and with ourselves.
Maclean is a Scottish artist living in the UK. In 2017, she was selected to represent Scotland at the 57th Venice Biennale. Green screen, computer animations, and digital post-processing all form the technical toolkit that shape her brightly-colored, illusory worlds and form her artistic critique on contemporary issues. In addition, her purposely kitschy aesthetic contributes to the much-needed humor for turbulent times. Her work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions and film festivals around the world, including New Zealand, China, Greece, Australia, France, and the U.S. Moreover, she has twice been shortlisted for the Film London JarmanAward and has also worked on a number of TV commissions with BBC Scotland and Channel 4.
“When I’m affected by an artwork, it can often be shifting your perception of reality just in an even very minute way. So, I hope that my work gives you a slightly different perspective, maybe on ways we talk about contemporary politics…. and the power that comes with that,” said Macleanin an interview with the London-based media company HENI.