Morag Keil, Controllers, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Jenny’s, Los Angeles. Photo: Ed Mumford
The Institute of Contemporary Arts presents Moarg Kiel, the first major solo exhibition by London-based Scottish artist Morag Keil. The exhibition revisits key works from the past eight years of the artist’s career, centering on four major installations that have been reconceived and remade for this presentation and are now brought together for the first time. The exhibition presents these works alongside new paintings and lesser-known earlier works.
Keil explores the impact of data-capitalism on contemporary subjectivities while acknowledging how these are affected by the precarity of everyday realities, such as labour and wealth inequality. Keil works in installation, film, painting, and drawing, and often collaborates with fellow artists. Her work frequently adopts a lo-fi, pared-back aesthetic, incorporating everyday objects and found materials alongside digital innovations that affect domestic life, such as home automation.
Throughout her varied practice, Keil appropriates and re-presents aspects of branding strategies from advertisements and social media platforms to investigate and expose pervasive techniques for influencing consumerist desire. She also foregrounds and subverts visual and aural strategies exploited in computer gaming or commercial environments in order to manipulate behaviour in ways premised on cliched notions of how gender is performed. Conceptually, Keil’s rejection of the hierarchies of value attached to art production is realised in the artist’s refusal to overproduce, while recognising this as an ever-present imperative.
The exhibition opens with Dizzy (2019), a sculptural installation and film shot in a UK department store that presents as an IRL computer game devoid of any rules and appearing to have no beginning nor end. Clustered around English public transport seating, a group of mannequins lounge around, seemingly staring at live feeds from their phones. Closer (2010), a kinetic sculpture, forms another part of the installation, providing a relentless rhythm. Also in the Lower Gallery is a remodelled version of Passive Aggressive (2016–present), a video comprising clips from animated advertisements, the opening sequence to Big Brother and close-up footage of motorbikes parked on the street. These glimpses into real and simulated worlds evoke notions of fantasy and freedom; the passive viewpoint of the camera juxtaposed with the latent aggression of the machines.
Also on display is Potpourri (2013), a single-channel video streamed online from a computer workstation installed in the ICA’s Upper Gallery. Alternating images of a young woman and man in a flat and drive-by scenes of a moped with two riders are overlaid with a text read by male and female voices constructed from a variety of sources, such as Instagram comments and a statement for members of a porn-related social media site. This central script connects Keil’s subjective examination of the influence these platforms have on how we present ourselves and stage identity, and how, in turn, we are perceived.
Shopping (2019) explores how the zoning of sound is engineered to determine the use of space and influence consumerist behaviour, for example in the supermarket or the shopping mall. Played through separate channels, the audio is compiled from disparate sources: an early Tekken video game (with its dramatic characterisations of masculinity and femininity), a recording of a rollercoaster ride, and personalised pop-up ads. The deliberately clumsy attempt to create separate zones through ‘fake’ directional speakers is set up to fail, as the soundtracks collide to produce a cacophony.
In bringing together a substantial body of work, this exhibition aims to show how Keil’s practice offers an insightful and eloquent consideration of how our day-to-day existence is increasingly mediated by technology and digital communication.
Morag Keil 30th January – 14th April 2019 Opening Tuesday 29 January, 6–8pm
About The Artist
Morag Keil was born in Edinburgh in 1985 and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Keil’s solo exhibitions include Here We Go Again, Project Native Informant, London (2018); Controllers, Jenny’s, Los Angeles (2018); passive aggressive 2, Real Fine Arts, New York (2017); A Solo Show, New Bretagne Belle Aire, Essen (2016); passive aggressive, Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin (2016); L.I.B.E.R.T.Y., Project Native Informant, London (2014); Would you eat your friends?, Real Fine Arts, New York (2014); Potpourri, Cubitt, London (2013); Palais de Token, Neue Alte Bruecke, Frankfurt (2013); Civil War, Outpost, Norwich (2012); Virginia Ham, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen (2011); Moarg Kiel, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2011); and Public Hanging, Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea (2011). In 2010, Keil received the Prix Lafayette at FIAC in Paris. She has also presented collaborative exhibitions including Questionnaire with Georgie Nettell, Yale Union, Portland (2017); Telephone with Ed Lehan and Georgie Nettell, Jenny’s, Los Angeles (2015); and Punks not Dead It’s Different with Georgie Nettell, Frieze London with Project Native Informant (2015). Keil is represented by Project Native Informant, London; Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; and Jenny’s, Los Angeles.