do what you love with maja cule
Maja Cule’s new exhibition, ‘Facing the Same Direction’ at Arcadia Missa is her first solo show in the UK. It consists of a film, works spread across an adjacent wall, a sculpture and an edition of a book that consists of printed out on-line reviews of...
Facing the Same Direction, Film Still, Courtesy Maja Cule & Arcadia Missa, 2014
Underpinning the show by the New York-based, Croatian-born artist is an elegant unpicking of DWYL culture and a knowing manipulation of visual culture that's been mediated through the internet and smartphones. We caught up with her as she was installing her exhibition...
Tell me about the Bic pens
Basically it's a compilation of 2000 online reviews of the Bic 'For Her' ballpoint pen, which were a range of pink and purple pens. The pens were released a couple of years ago and they were supposed to designed specifically for women...
Nice, a female pen...
...yes! It had thinner barrel and was supposed to fit much better into a female hand! The book puts together online reviews of the pen. You can't actually buy it anymore in the USA, you can only get it online.
And do you think it was a feminine pen for women or a feminine pen for anybody who at the moment wanted to identify with the feminine?
I think it was totally made to try and get female consumers to buy it and then of course identify with the pen's feminity! User comments range from practical reviews to humorous reactions through to PhD style statements on gender theory.
Of course the implication of its existence is that other Bic pens are for men... You've previously made work which examined the visual trope of women smiling with salad - this image that bizarrely repeatedly recurs across the internet. Does this book relate to that work?
Yes, they are both about the idea of a consumer really identifying with a product and more than that, identifying their gendered identity through those products.
It's pretty insulting! How do you see the nature of your interventions? I'm interested in the way that you don't critique these products or tropes in an angry way that says "this is wrong".
Sure, I prefer to just say, "look, this exists, it's out there". These are really plain objects or things and you don't really notice them until you take them out of context. What I really like about the book is that it's like a bible of arguments from feminist theory but written in the really plain language of online product reviews.
Okay, so now tell me about the film!
Well the main actress is a fictional character called Alex and she's this character who is feeling really antagonistic to the whole Do What You Love culture that is common right now. In particular she's against this DWYL implication that work is something that you should really love and feel passionate about whereas work is often instead just really repressive and quite negative. So basically the first part is a monologue about her experience of doing freelance work and the whole process of building your identity through that. She decides to make an online Indiegogo campaign to seek crowdfunding in order for her to empower alternative ideas about work and disempower this idea that you really have to love your work.
Is that a real campaign?
Yes, it's a real online campaign by a fictional character
And tell me about the part of the film that is shot outside the Apple Store
That was shot during the release of the iPhone 6 in front of New York's Apple Store and it's this very interesting public space as it's the only place where filming is entirely allowed without a permit. I shot it on a Black Magic camera with some shots on the iPhone. The idea is that is that is that it was a real-life situation but with a fictional character responding to it so that you hear her thoughts about technology, work and the whole start-up industry.
It blurs in and out of fact and fiction
Yes, so you see these people who have been queueing for three weeks for this new technology but then there's this fictional part trying to establish a romantic scene between people who work in the Apple Store, where there's a bit between two girls and a guy where they lock eyes.
And then it segues into a quite different second half...
Right, that's where she starts to rehearse the Indiegogo campaign whilst sort of doing an AirBnB rental on the side to make money. So then the piece on wall next to the film is an image of what looks like this typical AirBnB apartment....
...it's the first film I've done with constructed dialogue, a script and narration but I wanted to get away from the idea of how to do 'correct' dialogue or narration....
Yes, I get that! But does it all circle back to the question of how people build their identity today whether through the latest technology or their jobs?
That is completely the core especially the idea that you are the work that you do and love, and the participation you make through technology and phones and you constantly re-define that through posting and re-posting about it.
Text Niru Ratnam
Images courtesy the artist, Arcadia Missa and Adam Dugas