#SPECCHIO: MIMI – UPSIDE MIMI ᴉƜᴉƜ UʍOP | RACHEL MACLEAN
“Mirror Mirror in my hand, who’s the cutest in the land??” sings Mimi contemplating her reflection in the mirror. But instead of giving her the desired answer, the mirror traps her in an endless destructive loop in which Mimi tries “desperately to reach an ideal of beauty that is in itself impossible to achieve” (Maclean, 2021). Upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop (2021) is the first video animation by the British artist Rachel Maclean which features Mimi, a doll inspired by fairy tales. The project is an extension of a larger project, commissioned by Jupiter Artland with an award-winning park of contemporary sculptures located outside Edinburgh and founded in 2009 by collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson. Maclean’s complex project includes various media: architectural installation, video, digital art, painting, up to NFT.
With upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop, Rachel Maclean investigates the hyper consumerist core of 21st century society, the fetishization of goods and the idea of cosmetic self-improvement through an act of reappropriation of aesthetics and characters from fairy tales. Inside the park, Maclean sets up an abandoned toy shop: on the outside the walls are covered with leaves and graffiti, but inside there is a sparkling and perfect toy-dream where Mimi dolls are exhibited, fake mirrors in which the blow-up of Mimi multiplies her glances all over the place.
Maclean plays with various dichotomies like reality/appearance, above/below, external/internal, image/mirror, and adopts a very particular aesthetic that is close to that of cartoons and fairy tales. The little house in the woods is inspired by to that of the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the mirror evokes Snow White’s stepmother, the duality of the world upside down instead recalls Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. This aims to reflect on the concept of decline applied to contemporary society.
The character of Mimi hides a double personality: from the outside the doll has a young and sweet appearance, but under this image hides the old Mimi, with a grim face marked by time, and by plastic surgery. Maclean states that, “old Mimi constantly reminds us of the threat of aging and degradation. Like consumer capitalism itself, Mimi too appears cheerful and playful on the surface, but she turns out to be shadowy and disturbing when she removes that shimmering veneer of false perfection that surrounds her. ” The obsessive multiplication of the doll as toy, painting, video, etc., underlines the process of fetishization of goods and the desperate search for youth and novelty that is deep inside our media landscape: called to assume a semblance of perfection, we dress ourselves of makeup and fillers, losing our natural authenticity. The macrocosm created by Rachel Maclean constantly questions Mimi’s world, poised between being and appearing, perfection and decay, through optical illusions that simulate contemporary self-presentation practices.
Upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop, 2021
Digital Video Still and Installation View © Photo: Elliott Hatherley
Commisioned by Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh