From 8 May 2021, Jupiter Artland Foundation will unveil upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop (pronounced Upside Down Mimi) a new permanent outdoor installation by Scottish artist Rachel Maclean, alongside a solo exhibition featuring four key works from the last decade of her career. Three years in the making, this ground-breaking new commission is the first time Maclean has working entirely with cartoon animation and at an architectural scale, and her ultimate ambition is to transport Mimi’s world to high streets around the UK.
Known for her satirical characters and meticulously crafted fantasy worlds, Rachel Maclean has rapidly established herself as one of the most distinctive creative voices in the UK. Based in Glasgow, Rachel Maclean graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2009 and her work came to public attention in New Contemporaries later that year. In 2017, she represented Scotland at the 57th Venice Bienniale.
Combining animation and architecture, upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop takes the form of an abandoned high-street shop, sited within the woodland at Jupiter Artland. Responding to an invitation from Jupiter, Maclean has taken her inspiration from commercial spaces as sites of desire, combining this with the role forests play within fairy tales, being at once places of magic, of danger, of transformation and where the normal rules of daily life no longer apply. At the end of a woodland path, a toy shop - seemingly abandoned and derelict on the outside – will, on entering, reveal itself to be the upside-down world of cartoon princess Mimi. Maclean’s first fully animated heroine, Mimi is a darkly arch character for our generation who invites us into the topsy-turvy world of end-game capitalism; a 21st century fairy-tale about the experiences of young adults and consumerist desire.
Created in dialogue with teenagers from across Scotland recruited by Jupiter Artland, Rachel Maclean’s new commission responds to the pressures facing young people in the shadow of the pandemic, the rise of online culture and the decline of real-life spaces on our highstreets, town centres and countryside as sites for young people to express, define and discover their own identities. A public programme will accompany the commission exploring these themes and there are plans to create a moveable iteration of the installation to tour across highstreets nationally.
Alongside the new commission Jupiter Artland will invite audiences to delve further into the imagination of Rachel Maclean through the display of four seminal works made during the last decade. Visitors can watch in full her 2017 Venice Biennale commission Spite Your Face, a post-truth dystopian tale inspired by the divisive campaigns currently dominating global politics. As a rare treat, audiences can see one of Maclean’s earliest artworks, The Lion and the Unicorn, 2012, an inspired commentary on Scottish independence and the crisis of the union. Emblazoned with Union Jacks and Solitaire flags, Maclean dresses as a lion to embody English voices and a unicorn for Scottish ones, borrowing the vocal talents of Jeremy Paxman and Alex Salmond to excellent comic effect. Firmly in the tradition of the greatest political satire, Maclean’s work has a timeless quality, reinforcing the message that although faces change and headlines shift, the farce of political life and comic-tragedy of human frailty is endless and forever.
Lesser known to gallery audiences are Germs, 2013, and Eyes To Me, 2015, two shorter works created in the vein of info-commercials and kids TV. Timely to revisit in this era of hand-sanitising and social distancing, Germs follows a glamourous female in her battle against an adorable army of pink-and-purple germs, each played by the artist. Rather more unsettling is Eyes To Me, made in the style of a children’s television programme, where a young protagonist named Sophie moves through an enchanted garden inhabited by a race of cuddly Cyclopes. As the video shifts between different formats (kids TV, a fashion shoot, a probing interview), Sophie is surveyed, coerced and reprimanded by an omnipresent male voiceover, whose treatment of her moves from benign paternal care to cold, militant disapproval.
Using colourful make-up and extravagant self-designed costumes, Rachel Maclean plays all the characters in the films herself, borrowing from fairy tales, children’s television, product advertising, and internet pop videos. Employing computer technology to generate her locations and appropriating voices from popular television, the internet, and cartoons, Maclean deftly constructs super-saturated, cinematic alter-worlds populated by cautiously psychotic characters.
Founder Director of Jupiter Artland Foundation, Nicky Wilson states:
‘We have watched Rachel Maclean’s career develop for many years and have always admired her fresh and frank approach to issues that surround us. Although these are always relevant to the present, they provoke timeless questions about identity, power and social context. At Jupiter we have encouraged, and are delighted to see, her create a new fantasy world on the grounds of Jupiter Artland. Not all is what it seems and it’s this jeopardy that makes it such an exciting permanent installation. We hope we can provoke discussions and debate about issues that affect us all but most particularly after the time of COVID. As one of the Scotland’s most celebrated contemporary artists, Maclean’s work challenges audiences, and in its production challenges Maclean as a filmmaker. upside mimi ᴉɯᴉɯ uʍop will continue to stretch our imaginations through a film that is comical and charged.’
Artist Rachel Maclean states: ‘
Working with Jupiter Artland on this new commission has been incredible. It’s my first foray into outdoor art, and my most ambitious project to date, combining architecture, sculpture and animation. The upside-down world of Mimi has taken years of planning and hard work, so I’m really excited for folk to see it! I hope that the feeling of the world turned on its head resonates with audiences in these topsy turvy times and offers a surrealist and darkly humorous escape from lockdown life.’
Head of Exhibitions Claire Feeley says:
‘Working in the most challenging of circumstances, Rachel Maclean new permanent commission for Jupiter Artland is truly ground-breaking, not just in terms of its architectural scale and narrative depth, but also in its relevance to the most pressing issues facing young people today. The uncertainty triggered by the pandemic will continue to impact the lives of teenagers for years to come. Already, up to 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in a completely new job that doesn’t currently exist and the most recent Covid-19 impact reports published by the Children’s Parliament site anxiety as the fastest growing issue for young people, particularly teenagers, fueled by online misinformation and a surplus or ‘overload’ of content triggering emotional distress. Rachel Maclean’s work challenges us to open up a conversation about mental health and its one we intend to fully explore this summer through our programmes.’
Rachel Maclean’s exhibition runs from 8 May to 18 July 2021. From 1 April Jupiter Artland’s permanent collection of sculptures will be open for local members to connect with art, nature and the outdoors, extending to the general public from the 5 April. Further details and booking for the springtime walks can be found on the Jupiter Artland website.