Art Dictionary

Mariko Mori

Biography

Mariko Mori (*1967 in Tokyo) lives and works in New York and Tokyo. Studied fashion design at the Bunka Fashion College, Tokyo. 1989-92: Chelsea College of Art, London. 1992-93: Participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program. Since then, numerous solo shows around the world, at venues such as the Kunsthaus Bregenz; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Prada Foundation, Milan; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Serpentine Gallery, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and AroS Kunstmuseum, Aarhus.

Book related to this subject

Mariko Mori

Mariko Mori
Oneness

out of print
ISBN 978-3-7757-1967-4
» More information

Journeys through Space, Time, and Being

The artistic world of the Japanese multi-media artist Mariko Mori (born 1967) is almost always a mixture of art, technology, performance, music, architecture, nature and spirituality. It is not rare to find the artist herself appearing as Mariko Mori the fantasy woman in her artificial landscapes and sculptures, which are bursting with universal themes of being [to the strains of cyber-pop].

In her first photo-performances, Play with Me, Tea Ceremony, or Red Light of 1994–95, she appears as a post-human cyborg girl amid the Blade Runner-like chaos of contemporary Tokyo. The shiny, exhilarated, ecstatic appearance of her works, which makes them look like they come out of a Manga comic or video game, ironically reflects the blend of tradition and progress, the eccentric mixing of the natural with the artificial as it prevails in Japan today, while at the same time commenting upon the cyborg fantasies of Japanese animé cartoons and the role of women.

With the 3-D video work Nirvana, Mori begins a new phase in her work, which marks her increasing interest in spiritual productions and themes. Out of the cyborg goddess develops a spiritual one, uniting in a single being a Buddhist divinity, a Christian Madonna, a Renaissance Venus, and a figure from science fiction—the personification of the cultural interaction of a globalized society. In Mori´s aesthetic world, the artistic and philosophical traditions of Japan mix with allusions to western art history in the timeless space of gestures, today and tomorrow.

In her chromatic glass structure Dream Temple (1999), Mori brings together her spiritual visions of the synthesis of times, the mixture of pop culture, technology, and aesthetics. Like the Nirvana video and Wave UFO (1999–2002), Dream Temple is a technical challenge, which the artist—who lives between Japan and New York—could only realize with teams of specialists. Thus art mixes with technology in the fullest sense of the word.

In her most recent work, Mori sees herself as a mediator between cultures, and as the keeper of the spiritual consciousness of cultic places and cosmological experiences. In the photo cycle Beginning of the End: Past, Present, Future, which emerged in the course of eleven years from such highly symbolic places as, among others, Giza, Dubai, Shanghai, and Ankor, she presents herself as a time traveler in a Plexiglas capsule. She herself says of this; »In placing myself in a meditating position in a capsule, I am aiming at giving a certain consciousness to the viewer. I am in fact trying to rediscover some harmony between the spirit and what is material.«

Mori´s works convey experiences of transcendence and transformation. In works such as the four-and-a-half meter high glass sculpture Tom na H-iu (2006), she mixes ancient rituals with twenty-first century technologies. The monolith is inspired by the stele of Celtic places of worship, which are also known to have had a similar purpose in ancient Japan. These were believed to be places where souls crossed over into a new life, as well as places of cosmic timekeeping. The semi-transparent sculpture´s shell consists of a special glass with LED light figures. These works, which are constantly changing their color, are a contemporary translation of ancient models. Just as megaliths and stone rings were at one time used to tell the time, these installations use the latest technology to react to elementary particles.

Mariko Mori´s art is a synthesis of opposites. Just as the religions of Shintoism and Buddhism developed alongside each other in Japan, their works also show these bipolarities as a synthesis of east and west, of past, present, and future.

August 2, 2010 Caroline Schilling

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