Rachel Maclean’s new film takes on gender equality

Part horror, part comedy, the inventive artist’s latest video work marks 100 years since women were first given the right to vote in the United Kingdom

Article by Jamie Dunn | 22 Jan 2018
  • Venus by Rachel Maclean

Pop-culture ironist Rachel Maclean is one of the most exciting voices in artist moving image, and her newly announced film Make Me Up – described as a study “on the shortcomings of our journey towards equality throughout the past century” – sounds as playfully political as ever.

Marking 100 years since women were first given the right to vote in the United Kingdom, Make Me Up is set in the brutal modernist setting of St Peter’s Seminary and imagines a dystopian future where a group of women are trapped in a cruel reality TV-style competition. “Here, voting is not a liberation – it is a harsh judgement the contestants must face,” reads the film's synopsis. “New arrival Siri learns the rules of a show where compliance and attractiveness are key. Emboldened by her growing friendship with fellow inmate Alexa, Siri finds ways of sabotaging the system and discovers some terrible truths in the process.”

Maclean's first film since her celebrated Spite Your Face which represented Scotland at the 2017 Venice Biennale, Make Me Up is a co-production between NVA and Hopscotch Films and has been commissioned by 14-18 NOW to be part of The New Agora, an new annual series of digital artworks and public events that “aim to build genuine conversations across divides”. The programme’s name comes from Ancient Greece, where the agora was the forum for public debate. “The New Agora programme will provide an open platform to consider issues affecting humanity today,” reads the announcement, “and for this first year we'll be exploring the theme of Representation.”

“I'm delighted to have the opportunity to explore the excitements and complications of contemporary feminism,” said Maclean. “Make Me Up is my most ambitious and longest film to date and I'm so excited to be working with such accomplished production companies and arts organisations on this project.”

Make Me Up will be broadcast nationwide on the BBC later in the year. We expect to hear more information about Maclean's film and its tour in the spring. Until then, visit the NVA website to subscribe for updates and find out more