Rachel Maclean’s video work has always been uncompromising, but this is her most chilling yet.
Playing all the characters herself as before, she takes as her themes the bogeyman as groomer of children, surveillance culture and the pacifying effects of the media. It is a dystopian, candy-coloured landscape populated by youth gangs with dummies, swearing grandmothers and cutesie little girls on talent shows paraded in front of a willing public.
A small child becomes implicated in an ordeal, as we see a Disney-esque Beast with sharp teeth being questioned in an incident room. A spongey ball is squeezed, and peculiar things start to happen, infecting the city. Who are Smile Inc.?
Maclean toys with the audience, as much as the girl is toyed with. Important questions are asked , in regards to how much protection we can give children in a brand-aware world, where the young are all too aware of their rights, and the older generation are still chasing unobtainable ideals of youth.
A J-Pop backdrop with saturated colour only makes the subtext more sinister, although the undercurrent of malice is undone with cheesy pop songs, characters who are not what they seem, chirpy product placement, and Maclean’s characteristic grotesque humour.
A warped fairytale for our times, and horribly pertinent. 110%.
Part of Crossing The Line at Glasgow Film Theatre