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Mimi - A new exhibition by Newcastle University’s Rachel Maclean

23 June 2021

Mimi, a new permanent outdoor installation by Scottish artist and Newcastle University research fellow Rachel Maclean, is to go on show.

Mimi will be shown alongside a solo exhibition featuring four key works from the last decade of her career at Jupiter Artland in Scotland. Three years in the making, this ground-breaking new commission is the first time Maclean has worked 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.

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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. She joined Newcastle University in 2020.

Combining animation and architecture, Mimi 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.

Surrealist and darkly humurous

Rachel Maclean said: ‘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.”

‘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,” said Founder Director of Jupiter Artland Foundation, Nicky Wilson. “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. Mimi will continue to stretch our imaginations through a film that is comical and charged.”

Head of Exhibitions Claire Feeley said: “Working in the most challenging of circumstances, Rachel Maclean's 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, fuelled 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 it's one we intend to fully explore this summer through our programmes.”

Mimi opened at Jupiter Artland on 8 May.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences