Mariko Mori

Art & Public

A sweet smell permeated everything. What had been defined as a gallery on the invitation appeared to be a perfume shop: a hygenic, cool, and yet attractive atmosphere with rubber floor and mirrored ceiling, plastic cubes, and photographs of a model on the wall. Three pictures placed in a row: in two the head bends toward the side, pining, in sharp contrast to the objectivity of the electronic light meter that the model holds in one hand. In occasional flashes, the viewer realized that he or she was a part of this installation—and also a model, at least for the moment, confronted by the anonymity of a harsh public light. The photographer remained excluded: the exhibition system was taken for granted. Poured into Plexiglas and displayed on pedestals, bluish-violet bottles shimmered, emitting a scent disturbed only by the fascination exerted by the object.

In Mariko Mori’s works, the systems of art and fashion overlap. The loss of identity she experienced as a model in Tokyo in the ’80s finds its counterpart in the quickly changing artistic movements in London and New York. The fleeting instant a fashion is established is its greatest moment, a moment later it is already gone; it does not allow for the long-term development of an artistic identity. The work appears as a logo—seasonally, just like fashion—only to disappear as quickly. Mori’s project does not transform personal experiences; rather, she plays ironically in a post-Warholian sense with the mechanisms of the media. By doing this consciously as a woman, she evokes another tradition of putting the female on view. In the commerical, masculine gaze, the promise of exposure of the woman’s body is repeated. The bare public presentation is a form of denial in which only quick change and constant repetition still offer a bit of surprise. Repressing the identity of the model is the prerequisite for this. On the photographs, the experiences of an adolescent girl are noted: “Then I was in your arms, and reality faded away. . . .” Such irony perpetuates the precarious fashion system and increases the anticipation that will carry it further.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.