Rachel Maclean’s ‘Wot u :-) about?’ @ HOME Manchester


Rachel Maclean takes familiar aspects of our modern lives and transforms them into a sugar-coated nightmare in her exhibition Wot u 🙂 about? at Manchester’s HOME. Coffee culture, consumerism, and the cult of celebrity are key components of her dystopian world. The video installation It’s What’s Inside That Counts explores the rise and fall of Data, an almost alien celebrity who endorses the products of the fictional technology company BU and hypnotises the zombie-like masses with her selfies. At first glance she seems to have it all: fame, connectivity and calmness. But the cheerful, emoji-yellow façade is fragile, and when Data is hacked by the semi-human demonic rats of the sewers her beauty dissolves as her online popularity plummets. Maclean mocks the conflicting expectations society puts on itself today, as while Data encourages us to believe in ourselves, her own beauty is dependent on the number of likes she receives.


A series of wall hangings entitled We Want Data! illustrate the instability of this technology-fuelled happiness. In one image, a Buddhist-like BU sales representative floats on a cloud, clutching a coffee and a tablet as if they were a bible and a chalice, surrounded by happy consumers. But this contentment is shattered in another image as the rats interfere and the people revolt. Maclean’s sculptures emphasise the childlike quality of the exhibition and add a 3D element. The rats climb over giant yellow blobs, whose round eyes are reminiscent of Furbies, accompanied by screens displaying energy levels similar to those of a needy Sims character.

In Maclean’s work there is a tenuous balance between innocence and evil, between the beautiful and the grotesque. Her intense colours are more sickly than sweet while the raw faces of the rats contrast with Data’s perfection. Characters which wouldn’t look out of place in children’s TV show reveal their sinister sides when they don’t get their fix of technology. In this parallel universe happiness is just an illusion, ended by the touch of a button.

Wot u 🙂 about? will be on at HOME until the 8th January 2017.