Mimi, 2021

‘upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop’ is Rachel Maclean’s first fully animated video work and introduces her latest protagonist, Mimi, a fairy-tale inspired doll come to life. In the film, Mimi sings to her own reflection; ‘mirror mirror in my hand, who’s the cutest in the land?’ But she never gets a definitive answer. Instead, the mirror keeps her in a destructive cycle of self-improvement, trying to achieve an ideal of beauty which is itself forever out of reach. Like Mimi, the video is also stuck in a loop, going round and round with no clear beginning or end.

The video work forms part of Rachel’s largest commission to date, a permanent outdoor installation which takes the form of an abandoned high street shop, situated within the woodland at Jupiter Artland. Accessed via a winding path of candy coloured paving stones – reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house – the shop perpetuates the disorientating feeling of a world turned upside down. The upper half of the shop is glossy, shiny, and fresh, like a newly opened toy store. However, the lower section is worn, degraded, and colourless, like a disused building. Critical of a culture obsessed with youth and newness, the work updates familiar fairy-tale tropes to comment on the idea of ‘decline’.

The shop is fully stocked with Mimi dolls, lined up and stacked high on the shelves. Young Mimi peers out from behind the cellophane, wide eyed and smiling, yet beneath her skirt is the ‘old’ Mimi, ever-present and a constant reminder of the ‘threat’ of ageing and degeneration. Like consumer capitalism itself, Mimi looks light and playful on the surface, but becomes dark and unnerving when you get beyond the glossy veneer.

The world of Mimi was expanded for an ambitious solo show ‘That’s not Mi!’ at Josh Lilley Gallery, London. Here, Mimi is realised in a variety of new forms including paintings, sculptures, tapestries and an NFT. The exhibition as a whole intends to mirror and invert, using a mix of digital and traditional fabrication techniques to suggest a kind of uneasy, uncanny perfection. Each work is partnered with an inverted double, Maclean references classic visual illusions to reveal new forms and faces in an attempt to undermine traditional binary notions; in the universe of Mimi ‘Up and Down’, ‘Young’ and ‘Old’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Grotesque’ are constantly in flux.