Artist Rachel Maclean reveals ‘abandoned toyshop’ transformation of empty unit on Perth High Street
A seemingly-abandoned toy shop has arrived in the middle of Perth in time for the festive season.
But all is not what it seems in the upside-down emporium devoted to fairytale princess Mimi, where nothing is actually on sale and a “don’t let mi” sign hangs above the graffiti-strewn doorway.
The Mimi Store is the latest evolution for a character created by one of Scotland’s leading visual artists, Rachel Maclean, in response to the decline of high street shopping, the dangers of “consumerist desire”, the anxieties and concerns of teenagers, and a world “turned upside down” by the Covid pandemic.
Mimi’s first home was unveiled by Maclean, who is renowned for the fantasy worlds she creates for her work, in a Hansel and Gretel-inspired setting in the wooded grounds of outdoor art gallery Jupiter Artland, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Now Edinburgh-born Maclean and Jupiter Artland have joined forces again to create an “immersive installation”, which will be at 139 High Street in Perth until the end of January.
The Mimi Store, the first time the artist has created work for a retail unit, also marks the launch of Jupiter+ – a new project that will see Jupiter Artland work with leading contemporary artists to transform public spaces across the country.
The new Mimi Store is described by Jupiter Artland as as a “satirical exploration” of consumerism, identify and the political landscape in modern-day Britain.
Maclean, who has worked with cartoon animation to bring Mimi to life, said: “Mimi is a Disney princess-type character who is actually a person of two halves – the younger Mimi and the older Mimi.
“When you encounter the Mimi Store in Perth at first, it will feel a bit like an abandoned toy shop, but there are things about it that will throw you off. Everything is upside down, there is very low light, there are abandoned dolls everywhere.
"When you push open the door of what looks like a storeroom, you will see a film playing on an abandoned TV set. I was really interested in creating something for the high street where everything in Mimi’s world was inverted or upside down. There are signs saying ‘nothing must go’ instead of ‘everything must go’ and you enter a shop space where you’re positively invited not to buy things.
"I wanted it to be an experience which makes people think about their relationships with the banality of consumerism. So much of our relationship with desire and consumerism is about an aspiration to beauty, to youth and to something that’s always just out of reach. I want to critique that and look at the idea of almost aspiring for the opposite, with a shop that isn’t new or fresh to start with, but is dirty and grimy.
"I wanted to try to evoke the feelings of people who have ever worked in a high street, and the sense of difference between the feeling of the shopfront, a fresh and new space appealing to your desires, and backroom spaces, which are often dark, windowless, damp and mouldy. I think that’s very much the experience of capitalism at the moment, with a dream being sold to people and the reality of their experieces.”