In Rand/Goop, a new large-scale installation at Studio Voltaire in London, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley have created a circular narrative for six totemic video sculptures.
The protagonists, all performed by Reid Kelley, speak in pithy and often capricious four–line cento poems. The contents are drawn entirely from two sources. Appraisals of Russian–American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand’s ‘Objectivism’ philosophies – limited only to evangelist scholars of her work – are spliced with titles of every article listed on the website of Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle, beauty and wellness brand Goop.
Whilst these subjects are seemingly unconnected, Rand’s espousals of individualism or the virtues of "selfishness" soon begin to resonate with the purchasable wellness offered by Goop. "Self–care" becomes the relentless pursuit of personal betterment, sold as "10 ways" to do better, to perform harder. Correspondingly, the artists’ characters speak in anxious, blustery palimpsests that swerve between implied emancipation and fear: "Let’s talk about girls–only/ Libertarian alternative/ Where no innocence exists/ Without material property".
The artists’ expansive practice collaboratively combines painting, performance and poetry. Their elaborate monochrome sets are highly stylised, making use of disorienting trompe l’oeil backdrops and models. Their works subvert and burlesque specific historical and mythological narratives. Often set during moments of political or social turbulence, the artists give voice to characters who have slipped through canonical accounts, to meditate on mortality, gender and sex.
Rand/Goop by Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley runs from Friday 5 July until Sunday 6 October 2019 at Studio Voltaire in London.