Moarg Kiel is the first major solo exhibition in the UK by Scottish, London-based artist, Morag Keil, featuring new and reconceived works that span the last eight years of her career. Together, these works offer insight into Keil’s investigations surrounding the impact of data-capitalism and digital technologies on contemporary subjectivities, while acknowledging how these are affected by the precarity of everyday realities.
Keil works across 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.
Within many of the works in this exhibition, 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.
For Moarg Kiel, Keil takes the opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure key earlier works, many of which have not been previously exhibited in the UK. Four major installations form the core of the exhibition, presented in the Lower and Upper Galleries of the ICA, accompanied by new or little-known previous works that offer points of connection alongside more tangential references.
The first of these is Dizzy (2019), which explores the use of public and private spaces, and includes London Tube seats, a papier-mâché model house and a 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. Closer (2010), a kinetic sculpture comprising of the working parts of a sex machine, accompanies the installation, providing a relentless rhythm that echoes the large clock at the other end of the gallery. The assembled tableau is reminiscent of a stage or film set, suspended in time. Also in the Lower Gallery, Passive Aggressive (2016–present) is a multi-screen video work 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.
Potpourri (2013), consists of a single-channel video streaming online from a computer workstation, presented in the 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 script read by male and female voices constructed from a variety of sources, such as Instagram comments and a user statement for members of a porn-related social media site. This central script connects Keil’s examination of the influence these platforms have on how we present ourselves and stage identity, and how, in turn, we are perceived.
Shopping (2011/19) 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.
Through these and other works, Moarg Kiel offers an insightful and eloquent consideration of how a world increasingly mediated by technology and digital communication is impacting our day-to-day existence.