Moarg Kiel is the first major solo exhibition in the UK by Scottish, London-based artist, Morag Keil, featuring new and reconceived existing works, which 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 in 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 show, 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 that are used to manipulate behaviour in ways that are premised on cliched notions of how gender is performed.
For Moarg Kiel, Keil takes the opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure key works, many of which are not previously seen in the UK. Four major installations form the core of the show, presented in the Lower and Upper Galleries of the ICA, accompanied by new or little-known works that alternately offer points of connection alongside more tangential references.
The first of these comprises a sculptural installation, with accompanying film shot in a UK department store that presents as an IRL computer game devoid of rules, appearing to have no beginning nor end, nor purpose. Clustered around English public seating, a group of mannequins lounge around staring at phones streaming live, as though in a living room. Closer, (2010) a kinetic sculpture that forms part of the installation provides a relentless rhythm. The assembled tableaux 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 camera viewpoint juxtaposed with the latent aggression of the machines.
In the Upper Galleries, Potpourri (2013), consists of a single-channel video streamed online from a computer workstation installed in the 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 subjective examination of the influence these platforms have on how we present ourselves and stage identity, and how, in turn, we are perceived. Civil War (2012) Shopping (2019) explores how the zoning of sound is engineered to determine the use of space and behaviour, for example in the supermarket or the shopping mall. Played through separate channels, the audio is edited 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 sound tracks 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.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)