Cal Mac

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When I moved to Canada in 2018, the change in cultural surroundings made me acutely aware of the culture of addiction that I had been subconsciously immersed in for years in Scotland. As I carried out research into psychological theories around addiction, a theory struck me that addiction problems can primarily stem from a lack of connection to other people. In the most common industries selling socio- addictive products such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar and technology, I’m curious about how addictions work paradoxically as tools to connect people. These industries target addiction pathways in the brain, and so a global addiction health crisis continues. This ultimately changes the way we relate to and care for each other. 

In my sculptural work, I work towards giving this research an emotional life, where I look at both the opposites of addiction and the consequences of it. I present the opposites of addiction intuitively, as a utopian world where natural forms such as water are enjoyed, and intimacy is delicate and pure. 

On the other hand, I show the consequences of addiction in a dystopian world, where everyday addictions such as sugar and alcohol cause carelessness and aggression when expressing affection. In this sense, my practice fluctuates between representation and resolution. 

Contradictions are important in my work, such as the therapeutic imagery of water being made from glossy, environmentally harmful plastics. These contradictions are also present in my video work, where water’s tranquillity is presented within the ecstasy of flash Instagram stories. I like to communicate through materials, often working from a personal and familiar sense of attraction. For example, I feel the same thing when I feel an aggressive lust for affection, as when I ‘need’ to eat a strawberry lace after smelling it. Neurologically, addictions and love activate the exact same pathways in the brain, explaining why the viewer might share this connection between the sugar materials and intimate forms that I produce. 

I exhibit various manifestations of natural and addictive pleasures in spatial collages, where the work surrounds guests at socially constructed events such as dinner parties. Instead of a sterile, white space encounter with art, the viewer absorbs the work in a comfortable, domestically constructed environment. At these events, my aim is for the viewer to become attentive to ideas of pleasure in their everyday lives, through a sensory experience.

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