taking dissonant delight in Eilidh Page Morrissey's video work
Eilidh Page Morrissey makes hyper-textured short films.
The Glasgow-based artist constructs shimmering scenes set in abstract, underwater kingdoms of kitsch, often meticulously designed to appear unsophisticated.
In her most recent work, The Jellybaby, Morrissey serves up 11 minutes of sumptuous, unsettling visual commentary on digital culture. It's a cryptic, rose-pink adventure into the objectification of womanhood. The narrative unfolds around an anonymous "she", a young girl who lives in a cocoon of velvets and artificial jellies.
Here, as in others of Morrissey's vignettes, Dario Argento meets David Lynch, meets 1970s cookbooks in which every conceivable dish can be made from jelly. It's equally grotesque and compelling; hues evocative of flesh compliment themes of cannibalism and the inedible.
Morrissey appears as ‘she’, a solitary femme who hatched from an egg and lives in a vicious otherworld in which she must fight nocturnal beasts for food (or "edible gold"), and is taunted by the impenetrable voices she finds around her. A floor of seashells lined with gummy-candy teeth speaks in a digitised, clickbait lexicon:
'is this a mad boy or a sad boy?' // 'one heartbreak everyone has experienced' // '11 things that hit everyone right in the feels’
When she reaches out to the shells and asks to listen, they won't speak, and offer nothing. At this point, our young protagonist femme cries emoji tears. At other moments, she's taunted by an image in the mirror, who moves without her control. Each scene represents a different kind of entrapment by a digitally-driven landscape, in which we see each other as objects more than people. Morrissey has stated that her work “questions the ability for connection between humans in a world separated by screens … [in which] the post-net human condition demands that you are what you ‘like’.” Her desolate, solitary protagonist floats in a space in which emotive connection and digital connectivity are in constant, unresolved tension.
At the end of The Jellybaby, sat alone, "she" coats herself in slippery gold – metaphorically enacting an artificial mask of luxury. The viewer isn't offered an explanation or condemnation of these scenes; it's the chilling sounds of pianos and violins that tell us we're watching a critique. Music plays a particularly powerful role in Morrissey's work - daggers of sound from violins and pianos evoke noir horror movies, whilst the visuals conjure up a rather different kind of surreal domesticity.
In Prawn Eating we see Morrissey face-on against the (appropriately pink) backdrop of Sketch Mayfair. Bejewelled and adorned in claw-like nails, she uses her needlessly long talons to peel and eat a glass of king prawns, a task that proves challenging to her veneer of composure and grace. This is overlaid by the sound of fresh prawns frying in bubbling, blistering oil – visuals of this interject at random points. Straining to maintain elegance and smile for the camera, her consumption becomes an explicit performance. As the video continues (and the sizzling grey prawns turn to pink) she loses sight of the prawns’ very purpose as food, playing with the discarded shells as puppets and whimsical toys, smiling gleefully, rejecting the dainty difficulty with which she began. Perhaps the physical difficulty of eating king prawns is an allusion to the difficulty of simply eating in a 'performed' age rife with social media. Perhaps Morrissey just really, really likes rose-pink.
...For underneath the elements of the grotesque across her works (oil-stained fingers, themes of cannibalism, pink chiffon), it's clear Eilidh takes a meaningful delight in the surface. She loves these materials. The surface itself isn't the villain; it's society's reduction of identity to the superficial that's villainous.
Eilidh Page Morrissey works in Glasgow, and in addition to her artwork has written about cyborgs and selfies for content.
- Words by Katrina Russell