Mariko Mori

(b. 1967)

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(1967– )

Japanese multimedia artist. Born in Tokyo, she works there and in New York. She studied design and worked part time as a fashion model but decided that this was insufficiently creative and began staging tableaux in which she posed in costumes and settings of her own design. She draws on the mixing of Western and national sources which form Japanese mass culture. Birth of a Star (1995, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago) is a life-size transparency of Mori in plasticized tartan micro-skirt with outsize headphones, spiky hair, and silver contact lenses. The critic Rachel Schreiber was reminded of the cyborg, defined by the cultural theorist Donna Haraway as ‘a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction’. She also draws on and updates the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. In Tea Ceremony II (1995) she is dressed in an outfit with silver stockings and outsize ears, making her appear half alien. She stands on the outside of an office block offering the tea to business men who pass by indifferently. Is Japanese tradition now so strange in the contemporary world that it might have come from another planet? Kay Itoi who interviewed the artist in her studio describes her enactment of the tea ceremony as ‘an impressive piece of performance art’. What is peculiar to her work is not simply the flavour of an exotic culture but the way that her interest in fashion and technology is combined with a Buddhist perspective. For an exhibition in 1998 she provided a statement which referred very specifically to ‘The chain of reincarnation [which] harks back in time forever’. Tea Ceremony has been interpreted as a representation of the Buddhist mappo, which is a period of decline before the arrival of the future Buddha. Much more specific is the spectacular video installation Nirvana (1996–7), which moves on from the social criticism of her earlier work. Mori rises from a lotus flower and floats like a goddess above a tranquil beach (it takes 3D to a level of poetry quite beyond anything so far achieved by the commercial cinema), yet the plastic props are obviously the product of contemporary popular taste and mass production. She writes: ‘Let our spirit be liberated. Let us be at one with the ultimate truth of our selves and the whole universe.’ The implications of Mori's work are that contemporary technology need not necessarily be a hindrance to that process.

Further Reading

Art Institute of Chicago/Serpentine Gallery, London, Mariko Mori (1998)R. Schreiber, ‘Cybers, Avatars, Laa-Laa and Po: The work of Mariko Mori’, Afterimage, vol. 26., issue 5 (1999)

http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/FEATURES/itoi/itoi11-20-01.asp K. Itoi, ‘Tea with Mariko’, interview in the artnet online magazine.

Subjects: Art.

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