PRINT May 1992

Mariko Mori

TO STUDY ART, Mariko Mori emigrated to England from Japan, where she had previously worked as a fashion model during the mid ’80s. The work illustrated here was produced while Mori was still a student at the Chelsea College of Art, in London, and is largely concerned with the allegorization of art as fashion. Mori is clearly an individual who, in the role of mannequin, has already experienced the “instability of identity” (as she puts it), and invites us to look on as she looks expectantly toward art for “depth.” She finds instead (more) fashion. At least that is the pose that enables Mori to draw an analogy between the process of depersonalization inherent in modeling and the reification of art. The reference to the “identity” of the artist is gratuitous, valuable only as a mediating sign. This logic is evident in Mori’s work Market Value, as well as in The Instability of Identity, both 1991. The latter pictures the process of reification through the shadow play presenting the viewer with three differing “identity tokens”: the artist-as-model (represented by Mori’s head shots), the artist-as-designer (represented by an item of designer clothing of indeterminate origin), and the artist-as-full-possessor-of-her-powers-of-self-hood-and-creativity (represented by a mock advertising poster that includes the requisite “signature” logo). Mori’s anthropomorphism of the art object is extreme; it denies the work’s meaning as an autobiographical fragment. There is no causal link between her authentic experience as a model and the work’s use of the paraphernalia of modeling and fashion. The legitimacy of her work, therefore, has nothing whatsoever to do with the “authenticity” of her experience. Mori’s “naïveté” is a naïveté-manqué––the pose of the critic who sees quite clearly that making cultural judgments on the basis of taste is leading headlong toward the destruction of art. The Emperor’s New Clothes, 1991, is the view of a possible future that always threatens to become real, a gleeful account of the post-Warholian legacy taken literally. Such art always looks great on walls, confers coolness, and plays like hell in real life.