Cinema Room

The Cinema Room adopts the concept of a movie theatre, with posters on the walls of the corridor and separate movies showing in different rooms. This page displays seven contemporary works, including film and still images, related to the themes that Playtime.Commodity explores… 

While constructing their own narratives, these works form intertextual relationships around consumerism and the gendering of toys. Some of the works may remind you of toys and games from your childhood, such as Barbie dolls, digitalised doll characters, as well as a game common among children – cat’s cradle, and the binary choice of colours – pink and blue. All of which reflect the values of consumerism in the age of capitalism, as well as how consumerism affects gender norms in society.

Choose a film you would like to watch

Feed Me, 2015
Film and Audio Visual
1 hour

Pink Me Blue, 2019
Film
10 mins

String Figure, 2020
Digital Video
3 mins

You The Better Expanded Study no. 2, 1982/2014

Out of Hand Storyboard, 1980

Shopping Barbie, 2022

An Avatar Repainted, 2022

Work 1

Rachel Maclean

Feed Me, 2015 
Film and Audio Visual
1 hour

Commissioned by FVU and Hayward Touring. Supported by Arts Council England and Creative Scotland. 

The phrase “feed me” connotes the desire to be satisfied, as well as the experience of the commodity or consumer, which includes the desire to eat and be fed, as well as the sensation of never being satisfied. The film investigates the commercialization of childhood and the resulting tendency toward childish behavior in adults.  

She plays all of the characters herself, as before, and her themes are the bogeyman as a child groomer, surveillance culture, and the media’s calming effects. It’s a dystopian, candy-colored world populated by dummy-wielding youth gangs, swearing grandmothers, and cutesy little girls on talent shows paraded in front of a captive audience. 

As we see a Disney-esque Beast with sharp teeth being questioned in an incident room, a small child becomes implicated in an ordeal. When a spongey ball is squeezed, strange things begin to happen, infecting the entire city. Smile Inc. is a company based in the United States. The work takes a critical and satirical look at consumerism’s excesses in Western capitalist society.

Bio: Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1987, artist Rachel Maclean has spent the last decade showcasing her ground-breaking work in galleries, museums, film festivals and on television. Working across a variety of media, including video, digital print and VR, she makes complex and layered works that reference politics, fairy tales, celebrity culture and more.

She has shown her work widely, both in the UK and internationally, receiving critical acclaim in the spheres of film and visual art. Her major exhibitions include solo shows at Tate Britain and National Gallery, London; Arsenal Contemporary, New York; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Germany; KWM Artcentre, Beijing; and Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Maclean represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2017 with her film commission Spite Your Face.

Her film, Make Me Up premiered at London Film Festival and on BBC4, then went on to screen in festivals around the world, including Rotterdam and Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival, Turkey, where it won the International Federation of Film Critics award.

 In 2013, Maclean was awarded the prestigious Margaret Tait Award. She has been twice shortlisted for the Jarman Award and achieved widespread critical praise for her film Feed Me at British Art Show 8 in 2016. Maclean has also worked on several television commissions, including Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime, BBC Scotland (2017); and The Shopping Centre: Artist in Residence, Channel 4 (2018).

Maclean’s biggest commission to date, upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop, is on permanent display at Jupiter Artland, Scotland. The installation includes her first fully animated short film, which had its premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.

Play Video

Work 2

Natalie MacMahon

Pink Me Blue, 2019
Film
10 mins

Imagine a world where everything you know is questioned and old stereotypes are broken. Maybe things could be different if we open our minds? Pink Me Blue questions so-called gender rules and beauty standards: Why does a baby always get pink clothes when it is a girl and why do boys automatically get everything in blue? Why do people want to stay young and beautiful? Natalie combines animated scenes with live-action scenes and depicts an imaginative world where social stereotypes are challenged. What would the world look like if we were more open? Judgments of beauty are broken, the older you are the more attractive you are. Gender rules were changed, women wore blue, and men wore pink.

Bio: Natalie gained her first acting and performance experiences at a very young age and studied performing arts in Berlin. After finishing her studies, she worked in German and international film productions, shot music videos, commercials and performed on stage. After her initial successes as a performer, Natalie switched to screenwriting and directing. Her shortfilms “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry”, “Like A Summer Sonata”, “Lola wants to see the sea”, “It’s getting darker every day”, “The Redhead”, “A Universal Love Story”, “The Funeral Dancer” and “Pink Me Blue” have been screened and awarded at numerous international film festivals.
Natalie is about to release her first fully animated film called “Living in a bubble” and is currently working on her first feature film script “When I Stop Dreaming”, as well as a new interactive web series called “Time For Tears”. Thumbnail credit: Amber Palmer

Play Video

Work 3

Xinyu Cao

String Figure, 2020
Digital Video
3 mins

This video depicts two people playing a string figure game, a traditional game popular for kids from all over the world. Only one simple string will make the game realized. In the case of the string-flipping game, defeat and victory are always equally divided among the participants, which are woven under time. The time spent on this game can be extended as long as the player wishes. The idea expressed here is there is no absolute victory in the consumption of the time. The voiceover is the noise of children playing which brings audiences back to a time decades ago, in their childhood when no one had electronic devices. This contrasts with the extremely contemporary elements worn by the participants in the video, such as watches and manicures. It shows the advanced technology and developed consumer society today and contrasts with the pure joy people could get from a single string back to the time of childhood.

Bio: Xinyu Cao, illustrator and visual art designer, is now working at University of Nottingham Ningbo China. He had advanced study on Illustration in the University of Hertfordshire in 2018. Xinyu’s illustration works have won over 20 international illustration awards in USA, Japan, Singapore, etc. He has also held and participated in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Shanghai, Guanghzou, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Ningbo and Suzhou.

Play Video

Work 4

Ericka Beckman

You The Better Expanded Study no. 2, 1982/2014

Oil stick and charcoal on fine art paper

52 x 36 in

132.08 x 91.44 cm

Courtesy of Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

You The Better Expanded Study no. 2, 1982/2014

This drawing is a piece of work on paper for the experimental film You The Better (1983), which includes elements such as the interactive betting games to point out the fact that audiences are bettors. By exploring the idea of chance in a consumerism society, it inspires audiences to reflect the extents to which various forms of games and play in our present-day have been shaped by capitalist values, and that not only children (by playing toys) but also other members of the society (i.e., young people) are being affected (by engaging with media).

Work 5

Ericka Beckman

Out of Hand Storyboard, 1980
Ink and pencil on paper
37 x 62 in
93.98 x 157.48 cm
Courtesy of Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

Out of Hand Storyboard, 1980

This drawing is a piece of work on paper for a series of experimental films The Super-8 Trilogy (1978-1981). In the films, Ericka Beckman creates a game-like experience to question the various social and psychological constructs of play within post-industrial capitalist society. According to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, the movement aspect of play is crucial to children’s development. The digital gaming structure and the sense of interactivity highlighted in the films speak to the behavioural influence (educational) of media and technology on young people, which resonates with the educational history embedded within The Camberwell ILEA Collection.

Bio:

Described as a key figure of the Pictures Generation, Ericka Beckman’s work investigates how individuals shape their self-image based on outside influencers during an age of mass media. Her films and installations use colour, sound and movement to examine cultural signs and subjectivity, particularly with regard to labour, leisure and gender. 

In over three decades of filmmaking, Beckman has developed an idiom that constantly directs the viewer back to the rational language of film (one of several mediums in which she works). In describing her earliest works, Beckman notes her interest in the ideas of French structuralist Alain Robbe-Grillet, who urged authors to divorce their subjects from metaphor, and to sidestep a universe of signification in favour of “a world that is both solid and immediate.” Her 2002 film “Switch Center” asserts the presence of the film camera itself and the workings of the filmic medium. Camera angle, stop-action animation, and other techniques direct the viewer toward seeing the transmission of the message as integral to the message itself. 

In Beckman’s landmark piece “Cinderella,” the iconic fairy tale is structured as a video game with the main protagonist having to win her own freedom. A foundational work in the history of 80s moving image art, “Cinderella” considers the nature of social roles, how we learn them and act them out. The film reveals Beckman’s investigation in the late 70s of the educational theories of figures like Jean Piaget who considered activities, such as games, as a structure in which children can activate and internalize societal mores. Game play has long been a topic of Beckman’s work; in “Cinderella” and other films, the actors act as participants in a larger drama, often governed by rules that they discover through the course of the action depicted in the film. 

Juxtaposing past and present, changing tempos and camera angles, and manipulating sound allows Beckman to playfully push back against the traditional film aesthetic, creating loose yet demanding narratives. “The result is a satisfying, even delightful slipperiness of meaning, a mental vertigo induced by the changefulness of contexts and rules in regard to a given word or object” (Sally Banes, Millennium Film Journal, 1984).

Work 6

Francesca Berlin

Shopping Barbie, 2022
Digital

Shopping Barbie, 2022

Created by Swedish creator Francesca Berlin, this still-life depiction of Barbie in the midst of a shopping spree draws upon Berlin’s nostalgia and childhood. Barbie is shown sitting on a pink floor, against a hot pink background, clinging onto a shopping trolley full of goods. She wears a blue dress, pink sunglasses, and one heeled shoe (whilst the other has visibly fallen off). 

Berlin’s creations of the iconic Mattel doll draw upon her fond memories of childhood play, as well as her fascination with branding and logos, and the strange sense of comfort and security they seem to provoke. This idea ties in with the subject of the digital artwork, a Barbie who has visibly ‘shopped until she drops’. The abundance of material goods found within the trolley as well as upon the doll reflect not only the materialist ideals that Barbie promotes, but the abundance of add-ons that can be purchased to compliment a child’s Barbie doll. 

Barbie reinforces societal norms in relation to consumption, beauty standards, and gender roles, exemplifying to young girls the material achievements they should strive for. Whilst Mattel has diversified its products recently to cater to a less superficial audience, we must consider why this shift was made. Does Mattel care for the messages they promote to young girls, or do they realise this embodiment of femininity is no longer in trend, and thus, profit worthy?

Bio:

Francesca Berlin, also as known as Art Frankie, a Stockholm-based artist, is known for her abstract and playful art and creations.

Berlin began her career in London in musical art. During her time working within the musical field, she discovers her passion for scenology and the importance of details. In 2018 she changed her path, starting to work full time in creations and art. Since then she has had five exhibitions, participated at the Affordable Art Fair in Stockholm and worked with companies such as Spotify.

With her fascination with colour and historical elements from the 50s to the 90s, she experiments and finds new ways to use materials both on canvas but also in the form of sculptures and textiles. She works with obvious combinations inspired by everyday life and products to create feelings, memories and thoughts within people.  Aiming to alter the viewer’s perception, to change, and twist our understanding of common objects. 

Today you can find Berlin’s art and customised creations in NYC, Berlin and Stockholm. She also founded WAY gallery Sthlm, a digital and physical gallery, together with Estelle Graf and Felicia Berlin Baumgardt. WAY represents up n’ coming and established local artists. 

Berlin has worked with clients such as Spotify, 2NDDAY and Klarna and exhibited at galleries such as Nybroviken and Affordable Art Fair.

Work 7

Heloisa Horan

An Avatar Repainted, 2022
Digital Image

An Avatar Repainted, 2022

This digital image created by social media/IMVU user Heloisa Horan, exemplifies the content posted by IMVU users to brand and promote their gaming avatars. IMVU is a self-proclaimed ‘avatar-based social network’ which allows users to create an online identity and build friendships with fellow users. A large number of IMVU users edit images of their IMVU avatars using external software before sharing their work on social media platforms such as Instagram. This digital image by Horan combines PNG with external editing to modify the appearance of the avatar and background in which she is situated. 

Evolving from traditionally tangible toy dolls, platforms such as IMVU allow predominantly female users to express their thoughts and creativity through an external body. The transition from dolls to avatars has allowed companies such as IMVU to maximise profits through advertisements and infinite add-on purchase opportunities for users. Whilst these platforms allow children to socialise and express creativity, they are often criticised for their detached and warped beauty ideals, and promotion of superficial values including materiality, wealth, and popularity. IMVU claims to facilitate relationship building, however its emphasis on consumerist values questions the extent to which ethical integrity is the companies primary concern.

Bio: Born in Brazil (1999), Heloisa Horan the online name of one of over 7 million users of IMVU, an online metaverse for users to create avatars and socialise with people from around the world. The platform allows users such as Horan to customise their avatars appearance, hang out with friends, and earn virtual money. Having been on the platform for 6 months now, Heloisa Horan is one of many users that shares edited versions of their avatar upon social media profiles such as Instagram. Known as ‘repainting’, the process of editing images using a combination of IMVU avatars and external editing software (most commonly IbisPaint X), allows users to brand their avatars upon social media, and deepen the complex identity of their online alter egos (see @heloz.vu). IMVU repainting has become a business model in itself, with many IMVU users paying professional ‘repainters’ to create content for them to share via their IMVU social media.