Mariko Mori, Between Art and Science

Artist Mariko Mori. Photo: rawfemme.com

Mariko Mori is known for her sculptures, videos, photographs, installations, digital images, and performance pieces. Her works usually include surrealistic and sci-fi pictures and gadgets. In her videos and performances, Mori appears disguised as a sexy cyborg, pop star, mermaid, or a futuristic goddess.

Mariko was born in 1967 in Tokyo, Japan. Her father was a technician and inventor, and her mother was a European art historian. She studied at the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo and at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Finally, she attended the independent study program at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.

While studying at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo in the late 1980s, Mori worked as a fashion model. She is known for her photographs and videos, which she presents in various forms and with traditional Japanese motifs. Her work often explores themes of spirituality and transcendence with the help of technology. In 2010, she founded the Faou Foundation, a non-profit arts organization based in New York City.

First works

Play with Me, 1994. Photo: Art+Culture Projects

Mori’s works are among the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris. In her first photographs, Subway and Play with Me, both from 1994, she appears as a cybernetic heroine in the city of Tokyo. In Play with Me, Mariko is dressed in a plastic armor and a turquoise Barbie wig outside a Tokyo video game store. In this representation, she looks like a mix between a robotic doll and a samurai geisha.

In the Tea Ceremony III of 1995, Mori dressed as a Japanese office worker and served tea to the businessmen who walked by the street. In this performance, Mariko looks like an interplanetary geisha in a black office uniform and a silver cap with pointed martian ears. In the Empty Dream from 1995, Mariko is digitally inserted into a panoramic photograph of the Ocean Dome. In this work, she appears as a brilliant futuristic mermaid posing among Japanese bathers on the artificial beach of Japan’s largest indoor theme park. This time she is transformed into a hybrid creature within a hybrid world, with a connection between the artist and her environment.

Costumes and digitalization

Last departure, 1996. Photo: artnet.com

Miko no Inori / Shaman Girls Prayer from 1996 is a video that plays simultaneously on five small screens. In this video, you can see Mori characterized as an alien dressed completely in white. In the video, you can hear Mariko’s voice singing a ballad in her mother tongue as she spins and manipulates a glass balloon in her hands as if she were conjuring the future.

In Last Departure of 1996 Mariko appears as a digitized image in triplicate. In these images, she is dressed in futuristic clothes inside the modern Kansai Airport in Osaka. As in Miko No Inori, the three figures are holding a glass sphere in their hands. This work refers to the 1980 novel Somehow, Crystal by Yasuo Tanaka. The novel tells the story of fashion obsessed young women who patrol the streets of Tokyo’s Yamanote district.

In 1997’s Dream Temple, Mori abandons the style of using her own image and begins to photograph places with a certain futuristic spiritual aspect, where she seeks to facilitate the viewer’s own transcendental experience. Dream Temple is one of Mariko’s most sophisticated projects to date. The project was inspired by Horyuji Yumedono, a Buddhist temple that was once one of the mighty Seven Great Temples, in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. A site that many Japanese consider being a meditation site and dates back to 739 AD.

Art and science

Primal Rhythm, 2011 – Photo: artnews.com

In Wave UFO of 1999 art and science have come together in a creation that is simply fascinating. In this opportunity, Mariko generates a place for three spectators to enter and live a complete immersion experience. Participants enter an elegant biomorphic pod where they are equipped with brain wave electrodes capable of projecting images of their brain waves. The spectators’ brain waves are transmitted and projected on a screen. Mariko uses architectural engineering, neuroscience, and computer graphics to bring this experience to life. This way viewers can see their thoughts come alive in color and form.

Primal Rhythm of 2011 is a permanent installation in the Bay of Seven Lights, located on the island of Miyako in Okinawa, Japan. It consists of a four meter high Sun Pillar located on a rock jutting out of the bay. This pillar cast a ceremonial shadow across the bay every winter solstice. The Sun Pillar is accompanied by a Moon Stone, a sphere that changes color in response to the waves. At each year’s winter solstice, the shadow of the phallic pillar will reach the egg-shaped sphere evoking, as Mariko Mori said, “the sacred marriage of sun and moon”.

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