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Rachel Maclean – Too Cute

Rachel Maclean – Too Cute

An exhibition of artworks and objects from the Birmingham Museums and Arts Council Collections that analyses the concept of cuteness

Entrance to art exhibition with colourful sculptures

Too Cute! Sweet is about to get Sinister was an exhibition of artworks and objects from the Birmingham Museums and Arts Council Collections designed and curated by Rachel Maclean.

The exhibition, (26 January to 12 May 2019), featured the film Dr Cute, a 5-min digital video written and directed by the artist as her response to the gallery’s request for ‘interpretive material’. The exhibition was commissioned by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with Arts Council Collection.

The impetus behind Maclean’s project was an observation that despite cuteness being pervasive in advertising, television, and commodity culture, it is often considered frivolous and not deserving of proper analysis.

In developing the exhibition, Maclean investigated both what cuteness has meant to us historically and why contemporary society is fixated on the reproduction and sharing of cute objects and images.

The objects selected for display by Maclean varied significantly in age and intention: from contemporary politically-inspired sculptures (artworks by Helen Chadwick, John Isaacs, Gillian Wearing and others) to nineteenth-century paintings, taxidermy, and dolls. In researching the artworks, another facet of cuteness was uncovered: its ability to be simultaneously sweet and sinister.

Exhibition with colour sculptures

The film accompanying the exhibition is presented by Dr Cute, a grotesque Care Bear-like professor. Dr Cute attempts to put forward an academic account of cuteness and its effects, but is hindered by sudden emotional responses, as artworks incite reflexes of love, repulsion, and fear. Objects from the exhibition appear in the film, manipulated and animated by the artist.

Fascinated by the illusive moment where cute objects and images seem to slip from inspiring care to inciting fear and disgust, Maclean’s project set out to discover why cute things have the potential to be so creepy: why do the same things that make us go ‘aww’, also make us go ‘aaah!’?

 

 Download project PDF: Rachel Maclean - Too Cute (1.7 MB)

Colourful computer generated graphics with mouse headed person

Main image:
Rachel Maclean, Too Cute, 2019, installation view.
Commissioned by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with Arts Council Collection

Second image:
Rachel Maclean, Too Cute, 2019, installation view.
Commissioned by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with Arts Council Collection

Third image:
Rachel Maclean, Dr Cute, 2019, digital video still.
Commissioned by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with Arts Council Collection