An exhibition comprising three installations by a leading contemporary British artist, including a direct response to the claims of Donald Trump and a piece inspired by LGBQT+ concerns, opens at Scarborough Art Gallery next week.
Annabel McCourt’s Suffering Arcadia comprises two brand new installations commissioned by Scarborough Museums Trust, which runs the gallery, and an existing piece.
The two new pieces are MAGA Grabber and Happy Hour in the Harmful Factory. The third, Electric Fence, was first seen at Hull Minster as part of Hull’s year as the UK City of Culture 2017.
MAGA Grabber is inspired by the news that Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ caps were made in China, and that their manufacturers were stockpiling them while they awaited an American ruling on trade tariffs.
Based on a traditional seaside amusement arcade claw grabber machine, it will incorporate caps and other promotional items commissioned by McCourt from the same manufacturers, with the addition of the words ‘Made in China’.
McCourt says: “MAGA Grabber Is a direct response to Donald Trump’s infamous brag that he just grabs women by a certain part of their anatomy.
“We buy into the illusion of an arcade grabbing machine – we want to win, we suspend our disbelief. Indeed the machine’s instruction manual says that ‘a player must fall under the spell of the game through the fact that the grab can pick up the merchandise easily, but he didn’t play accurately enough and wants to try again’.
“It’s a seemingly clumsy yet sinister metaphor, another cheap shot at mocking the ‘Leader of the Free World’, but if you stop and take yourself out of the game for a moment, it’s horrifying that it is so easy for people to buy into the illusion, the promise of a reward, and downright disturbing that women, fathers, humans can knowingly participate in a form of mass coercive control – with MAGA Grabber there are no winners, only losers.”
Happy Hour in the Harmful Factory, a two-part hand-written neon artwork, is a feminist response to the futile optimism of milk as a cure-all.
McCourt says: “It draws on multiple cultural inspirations ranging from the recent Novichok poisonings in Salisbury, Margaret Thatcher (Milk Snatcher) and the heightened abhorrence of female child murderers.”
The inclusion of the existing work Electric Fence will give visitors to Scarborough Art Gallery a rare chance to see a bold and important piece of work that was a response to the highly publicised sermon of a North Carolina pastor advocating a ‘solution’ to same-sex marriage: to ‘build a great big large fence, 50 or a hundred miles long. Put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can’t get out’.