Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose

The video from my multisensory installation ‘Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose’ can now be viewed online.

The installation was shown in September 2016 as part of the Glasgow School of Art Graduate Degree Show, and in November – December 2016 at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute as part of the College Natural 2016 exhibition. Here is an extract from the catalogue essay about this piece:

Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose navigates themes of material consumption, deification and worship through the lens of an imagined mythology. Dolly Parton – the ‘queen bee’ – inhabits a space of contradictions; where her plastic, materialistic, hyperfeminine appearance – looking almost like a caricature of herself – is very much at odds with her philanthropic actions and religious lifestyle. In this fantasy domain, Dolly Parton is situated as the spiritual leader of a cult of popping candy-eating devotees, seeking their path to the Great Beehive in the Sky.

The video becomes a tangible connection to this imagined world, inviting the viewer to invest themselves in the narrative. Framed in the rhetoric of music video and televised musical performance, Natalie enters into a ritualistic routine, blurring the lines between choreographed musical act and enthusiastic hero-worship: is she imitating Dolly or becoming her?

Walking the line between sexual and sacred, the piece investigates the female body: the dichotomy that exists around its role as a means of control – how it manipulates and is manipulated – and the uncomfortable dynamic between sex object, virginal innocent and mother figure that women frequently feel pressured to maintain. The frenetic ingestion of popping candy featured in the video comes across as a semi-conscious, automatic act, obliquely referencing the modern culture of overconsumption. The routine culminates with the viewer being forced into eye contact with the performer in an uncomfortable ending sequence, an unidentifiable blue substance dripping from her lips: is it semen, vomit, spittle or something else?

With many thanks to Justin McKeown and Enya Zia Fortuna for their support and advice.