Rachel Maclean: We Want Data!



In discussing the project, Rachel Maclean herself states that the ‘the exhibition is made up of a series of large-scale digital prints, which feature a number of costumed characters. There is a female and male figure, both inspired by the yellow nose-less emoticons of internet and smart phone messaging, who appear either beaming back at the viewer or fixated on screens. Surrounding them is a series of what I’m calling ‘plague victims’ who wear camouflage pajamas, sleeping masks, and carry signs demand- ing, “We Want Data!” They seem at once to be protesters and unconscious zombies, groping around for a lost Wi-Fi connection. The most active figures are a crowd of mangy rats, who look somewhere between the cutesy, dress-wearing mice of Disney’s Cinderella (1950) and a plague of dirty, sewer dwelling beasties. They are seen chewing on data cables, as if mainlining or hacking into pure, unfiltered data. Additionally, I intend for the prints to be read from left to right, with a gradual progression from a joyful, sunny world to something more dystopian and derelict’. 

I decided to include the whole description of her work because I found it interesting that every single part of her prints has a significance and all of that relates directly to my project. It was very fascinating that she actually intends for her prints to be read from left to right which I think translates a filmic narrative into a still image. I really like that you can look at her prints for a long time and still manage to discover something new. I believe that this tactic allowed her work to be more attention-grabbing as it captures the attention of the viewers for a longer period of time. Her almost grotesque cartoonish caricature has a both, repelling and attracting effect on me because I am both interested in what is portrayed yet at the same time a little disgusted when looking at the zomie-like people. The fact that she portrays ‘unconscious’ zombies groping for a lost Wi-Fi connection reveals an aspect of critique toward the current state of modern society in which everyone is obsessed with their phones and are therefore always online. This obsession with always being online is something that I want to address in my website as this is obsession is what leads people to overshare data.

She also mentions that she is interested in the fact that ‘there is an aspect of online identity that exists purely in the form of information related to what you view and what you buy in order to predict what you might like to purchase. In this online space, your history is not that of your ancestral lineage, bound up in a family history and experience of place, but instead a very recent series of clicks, purchases and views’.

This quote provides a interesting way to look at how information exists in our society in relation to our history. The history that is significant is now centered around what people click on and what they buy, which points out the fact that these are the aspects that make up our identity online. Based on this, it could be said that online identity exists purely for the purpose of collecting data and predicting what people would like to purchase. This relates to the concepts relating to online advertising agencies, control and persuasion that I have been exploring previously and actually visually demonstrates them. I will not create any grotesque looking creatures but I think her work inspired me to create characters that speak to the user. Thus, instead of holding a banner with the direct words ‘we want data’, I had an idea that I could create characters that speak to the audience and try to convince them to follow through the journey of the website. They will not physically look grotesque but they will be looking normal but actually try to gain data and information from the user through this website which will make them grotesque in their nature.


Artpace.org. (2016). We Want Data! » Artpace. [online] Available at: http://www.artpace.org/works/iair/iair_summer_2016/we-want-data# [Accessed 14 Oct. 2016].


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