A teenager named Siri is about to have a nose job. Instead of the clinic, however, she somehow ends up in an Instagram-filtered world made of sugar that looks like a cross between Barbie’s dollhouse and a women’s prison. The pastel girls living there are subject to constant discipline under the watchful eye of Madame, who ensures that none of them stray from their female role. An expert on the ideals of feminine beauty, Madame speaks in the voice of the famous British art historian Kenneth Clark. Scottish director Rachel Maclean’s work has been described as “razors in cotton candy.” Make Me Up, her feature-length debut, is like a sweet candy dipped in poison. Under the layers of nauseating color and hit songs by Nicky Minaj lurks a sharp-edged critique aimed not only at the patriarchy but also at the sort of pop feminism that flourishes on social media. This apparently safe space, where women can express “their true selves,” is home to underlying violence, self-censorship and conformity to traditional norms. Somehow, the new, superior canons of beauty are confusingly similar to what we’ve learned from art history textbooks. Feminist sci-fi in a dollhouse.
Rachel MacLean is one of the most fascinating of a young generation of Scottish artists. She studied painting at the University of Edinburgh but works in the intersection of film and new media. In 2017, she represented Scotland at the Biennale in Venice, where she showed a work titled Spite Your Face. She often appears in her own films, which discuss the pop-culture pitfalls lying in wait for young women.
2011 The Phantom Band: Everybody Knows It’s True (short)
2014 The Weepers (short)
2015 Feed Me
2016 It's What’s Inside That Counts (short)
2017 Spite Your Face (short)
2018 Make Me Up