In 2019, Outset UK and Israel together supported the acquisition of Rachel Maclean’s 2017 video work ‘Spite Your Face’ by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This followed Outset Scotland’s support of the original commission, in collaboration with Alchemy Film and Arts, Talbot Rice Gallery, and the University of Edinburgh.
The protagonist of the film, Pic, is a Pinocchio-like figure, who climbs out of the gutter to the heights of society, enjoying the fruits of fame and fortune. Paving his way with lies, his nose, a gilded Pinocchio nose, becomes increasingly long.
The title is borrowed from the English proverb “Cut off your nose to spite your face”, which is usually spoken as a warning. The Disney-like façade of the film is but a device that serves to camouflage its true essence: it is only allegedly a children’s tale. Painted in blue and gold, Spite Your Face portrays a reality of greed, opportunism, and the worship of external and superficial glamour. This is a dark Dickensian tale, grotesque and terrifying, constructed as a bitter-sweet fable about life in the post-truth era. It responds to significant changes in the political climate during 2016-17, with Brexit in the UK and the US Presidential election.
All the characters in the film, both the admirable and the despicable, are played by the artist herself, with impressive virtuosity, aided by wigs, costumes, makeup and digital manipulation. Written, directed and starring Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face was first shown at the Venice Biennale in 2017, where Rachel Maclean represented Scotland. The video installation was shown in the Santa Caterina Church in Venice, situated at the end of the long church nave. At Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the installation replicates the elongated and vertical proportions of the church, allowing the viewer to be immersed by the monumental vertical screen. The awe of the church space is replaced by the museal aura. Given Pic’s exploits, both the church and the museum enhance the power relations and the status gap that Pic, in vain, is trying to re-establish.