The Venice Questionnaire #10 – Rachel Maclean

The artist's new film for the Scottish pavilion will explore post-truth, gender and inequality

Rachel Maclean, A Whole New World, 2014, digital video, 30 min Rachel Maclean, Feed me, 2015, video still, HD video, colour and sound, 60min. Courtesy the artist and Rowing, London Rachel Maclean– Please, Sir, 2014 Video still 2, Courtesy the Artist and Rowing, London Rachel Maclean, A Whole New World (film still), 2013.

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2017 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening (13 May – 26 November). 

Rachel Maclean is representing Scotland. The pavilion is located in Chiesa di Santa Caterina, Fondamenta Santa Caterina, 30121, Cannaregio.

What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?

I am really excited to be presenting a brand new short film called Spite Your Face in Santa Caterina, a deconsecrated church in Cannaregio. Written shortly after Brexit and the US elections in 2016, the film is a contemporary take on Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883), exploring contemporary themes of post-truth, gender and inequality. The video is a set in a grotesque yet seductive green-screen dystopia. As in past work I play all the roles, using exaggerated face paint, prosthetics and costume to transform myself into a cast of outlandish characters.

How is making a show for the Venice Biennale different to preparing a ‘normal’ exhibition? Or another biennial?

It has been amazing preparing for the Biennale, the excitement of being able to work in Venice and select a venue to exhibit in has been so inspiring. The multi-national perspective of the Biennale makes it a unique context to show work and I have given a lot of thought to how to approach this, for example by using multiple languages and translations in my film.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or is it problematic?

Scotland has a great visual culture and it's a privilege to have the opportunity to represent my country and be part of its diverse and exciting art scene. Nationalism is on the rise and living through the recent Referendum on Scottish Independence and Brexit has emphasised how complex and nuanced the politics of contemporary national identity are. I hope that my exhibition whilst celebrating Scottish art, also addresses some of the problematic aspects of contemporary nationalism.

The Venice audience is a diverse group. Who is most important to you? The artist peers, the gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening, or the general public which visits in the months that follow?

At the moment I'm really focused on making the work and excited by the opportunity to present it to such a diverse audience. It's going to be a larger audience than I've ever had before for an exhibition and I'm hopeful that my work communicates and is meaningful to the wide range of people that visit the show.

Did you visit the last Venice Biennale? What’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?

I first visited the Biennale in 2009, right after I graduated from art college. I'd never been to an art show on that scale before. A friend and I stayed in Camp Jolly on the mainland, selected both for its name and cheapness. It was less than jolly in reality, but the Biennale made up for it in inspiration.

How does a having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?

It gives Scottish artists an international platform which is incredibly important and allows more people the opportunity to experience the high standard of contemporary art created here in Scotland. It also provides a brilliant opportunity for the students we work with on the professional development programme to live and work in Venice.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m really looking forward to seeing Jesse Jones at the Irish pavilion – she's an artist I have admired for a long time and I can't wait to see what she exhibits. 

Click here to read all our questionnaires published so far

13 April 2017