In a darkened former chapel, grotesque female faces on televisions are shouting maxims in a hectoring style. The screens function heads to a gaggle of human-measurement sculptures produced from jerrycans, chairs and different home objects. The utterances appear to have their very own logic, till you realise it’s all nonsense.
“Banking reform is no prince charming, but his body is a busy mom’s best friend,” says one. “Having sex and pursuing fraudulent economic principles is so good for developing countries,” one other claims.
American artists Mary Reid Kelley and her husband Patrick are placing the ultimate touches to their multimedia present Rand/Goop, on the non-revenue London gallery Studio Voltaire, previously a Methodist chapel. Its title refers each to Ayn Rand, the late Russian-American writer and thinker beloved of conservative American politicians and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and to the wellness website of Hollywood A-lister and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow.
You may marvel what the 2 ladies have in widespread. A shocking quantity, apparently. The connection, in line with the artists, is the relentless – and massively influential – individualism espoused by each ladies. Rand advocated “the virtue of selfishness” and has gained admirers including Donald Trump, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Paltrow’s web site Goop dispenses anodyne way of life recommendation and flogs overpriced trend and magnificence merchandise aimed toward a tyrannical self-enchancment. “I think these are both historically important ideologies,” says Mary, sitting amongst laptops, cables, sketchbooks and mugs of tea. “These are kind of our female supervillains!”
The artists are the one vibrant parts within the vaulted area. Black partitions with a ceiling and flooring punctured by white outlines supply a stark setting for the six greyscale sculptures, which resemble complaining androids yammering manically.
The sculptures’ script varieties the core of the present; it’s a nutty mash-up of Rand and Goop-isms, composed by Mary into an historic type of collage poem referred to as a cento. The artist took 35 pages of article titles from Goop and wove them along with phrases from Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged and the titles of her and her acolytes’ writings.
Much of the humour derives from the jarring juxtaposition of Rand’s bossy free market pronouncements with the flaky magnificence and wellness tips discovered on Goop. So within the quatrain “What do we do about puffy, irrational animals when they yell that they are real?” as an example, the primary half “is a Paltrow because they’re talking about the problem of puffy eyes,” explains Mary, “and ‘irrational animals’ is of course from Rand as she wants us all to be rational animals, so she’s probably insulting someone.”
The artists are recognized for his or her creative movie installations, using black and white painted props, cartoonish costumes and starring Mary in myriad roles, from a female Minotaur to a dissected corpse. Underpinning the works are Mary’s scripts, typically written in rhyme and full of saucy puns and erudite references to classical mythology and literature. Parody is integral to their work as a way to discover taboos and hypocritical social attitudes. With Rand/Goop the duo has taken inspiration from Jonathan Swift and Victorian nonsense poets reminiscent of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.
The present marks a departure for them in bringing the viewer on to the set to interact immediately with the totem-like sculptures. This ragtag shouty band of female characters is solely performed by Mary, whose painted face seems in several guises on every tv monitor. Each one has a selected character, so there’s an authoritarian boss, a “nonsensical ditz”, a humourless political sort and so on. “We envisioned them as a chorus but they’re not really listening to each other and keep on asking these questions that nobody answers,” says Mary.
These assemblages of random objects mirror the essential idea of the cento poem as a linguistic mosaic. “All the physical objects, from the chairs, baskets and fuel tanks, to the monitors themselves, are this idea of taking apart and putting together, just like the text,” says Patrick. And being on a regular basis, mass market gadgets disadvantaged of their perform – in some instances chairs have had their legs eliminated or holes have been reduce in to the furnishings – they’re a counterpoint to the aspirational merchandise bought on Goop and to the extremely-logic of Rand.
Patrick handles the technological aspect of issues resembling animation and modifying, in addition to constructing complicated units with a clunky, handmade aesthetic. The problem has been to programme the characters to talk in flip and typically in unison, as once they yell “Help!” responding to an pressing magnificence quandary on Goop. Digitally animated eyes, moderately than bulbous prosthetics, permit individuals to have a dialog of types with the sculptures.
To contain the viewer additional, the artists have printed out quatrains to remove. Do they’ve a favorite? Mary volunteers: “‘If you want to go vegan / Without values, to love / Is the new cheese / Of male birth control’.” “Yes, agrees Patrick, “that’s kind of disgusting and good.”
• Rand/Goop is at Studio Voltaire, London, from 5 July-6 October.