Mariko Mori: a 2.0 Artist, Mixing Technology and Spiritualism
Mariko Mori is one of the most well-known Japanese artists on the scene today. She is also one of the most important. In a historical context, she references traditional Japanese culture and ancient history. In a visual one, she champions the use of photography and is fascinated by how technology and spirituality forming a connection between not only art and fashion, but the cultures of old and new. With her eclectic collection of thematic compositions that play on the ideas of life, death and reality, her oeuvre tends to transcend boundaries. Fascinating and edgy, her work invites us to embrace technology and inspect the past in hopes of making the utopian ideal seem like a reasonably possible for the future.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 14th issue of ODDA Magazine.
To start, tell us a bit about how your background and upbringing brought you to embrace art as a form of expression. What made you feel confident that you wanted to become an artist?
My mother is an art historian and my late father was an engineer/inventor. Both parents influenced me a great deal as my mother gave me the opportunity to be exposed to art and my father showed me how joyful it is to create something new. The art-making experience in the art college in London motivated me to become an artist.
In your work, you deal with the ideas of fantasy and reality overlapping in the technology driven, contemporary Japanese consciousness. Where did your interest in this perspective of life based on technology come from? What influenced it?
My father invented sunlight transmitting device in the 70’s. He developed automated control system and designed the lens to avoid UV rays to be transmitted. I was inspired by combining software and hardware to engineer the device which could bring something that did not exist before.
You’ve said that, “Art and technology seek the new or the imminent future; they share the same anxieties and conditions, and aspire to resolve the essential problems of humanity.” Given that, what would life be like for you without these two things (art & technology)? For you, what are these essential problems of humanity?
The first hand axe was made by Homo Habilis over 2.5 million years ago; it was art & technology of the time. We have continued to evolve by creating and inventing. The technology has been always the crystallization of our wisdom and innovative reaction to the world. I feel that it is essential to keep our ability to create and innovate. The challenge would be how we control ourselves to utilize the tool which we developed to support better future.
Before you began your art career, you were a former model and fashion designer. What influences have each had on your body of work? Is there more room for freedom of expression now as an artist than there was before as a model or designer or even an art student?
I have learned how to produce an image expressing ideas using my own body which became quite useful for my earlier works. However, I have discovered freedom to use available materials and media through art making. There is no limitation of media to express an idea for an artist.
Early in your career, your work featured manga-infused imagery, futuristic costumes, high-tech architecture and fringe elements of Japanese pop culture. Your recent works seem to be more focused on the spiritual and metaphysical. What prompted the change in ideas from then to now? Did this accompany a personal transformation as well?
In 1996, I have traveled the world to produce a photographic work and I encountered the vast nature of the Dead Sea, Flaming Cliffs and canyons of Arizona. During the trip, I have also visited sacred places. Since then, I have continued a field work of finding cultural diversities in the world. It was driven by deep curiosity to understand the cultural differences but it impacted me in a powerful way to develop the philosophical approach to the spiritualism.
From Sci-Fi infused photographs to large scale 3D installations in far off places, you have been known to take risks when producing your work. Describe your creative style in three words and then explain why you feel the need to take risks as an artist.
Believe the vision. In order to create something new, challenge the limit. It is good practice to let go of the fear and believe in your own vision.
While using your own image in a portion of your work, most, if not all, of it seems to place Japan in some way as its subject matter. With a uniquely keen ability to illuminate the countries cultural perspectives and subversive sub-conscience, what do you feel is the biggest misconception that outsiders have of Japan? What would you most like to relate about the country through your work?
Zen Buddhism and Shintoism are well received by the outsider but the dominant culture behind those beliefs is actually based on the indigenous culture. I try to relate to the indigenous culture which is deeply rooted in the nature.
With solo exhibitions held throughout the world at places like the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, The Museum of Contemporary Art, in Tokyo and in Chicago, IL, and The Dallas Museum of Art, in Dallas, TX, to name just a few, how does it feel to be an accomplished and confident female artist with a voice that resonates across the globe? At what moment did you realize that you had the power to influence other people’s perspectives through your artwork?
I am grateful for the opportunity to exhibit my work to share ideas with the audience worldwide. At the first international Biennale, I realized that art goes beyond the cultural and national border. Strong work could reach deep in one’s heart without any preconception. My aim is to deliver works which reflect our time and space.
In 2010, you began a monumental public project to create six site-specific artworks through your non-profit the Faou Foundation, an organization that seeks to promote environmental awareness of the balance between humanity and nature. How did this project come about? What does it mean to you?
In pre-history, our remote ancestors had a tradition to honor nature and human culture in the world. We still practice those traditions, but it has been disappearing from our planet. I felt a need to continue to honor nature and I know art has power to do this.
It is a life-time mission for me. I hope to initiate a new custom of contemporary art to help sustain nature. The permanent installation could promote the idea of “Oneness” and become a symbol to connect nature and humanity.
As a creative director, marketing manager and fashion editor, Kyle has
developed brand identities and creative strategies for a variety of
businesses and written on a variety of fashion topics for ODDA and Lab
A-4 magazines. With his background in advertising, he helps his
clients understand complex ideas, motivates them to action and
cooperates with media outlets to carry out successful brand
strategies. But the madness doesn’t stop there. He is also a recipient
of numerous international industry awards hosted by AVA, MarCom,
Hermes and GDUSA, and a judge of several international awards
competitions where he competently utilizes his passion for meaningful,
quality design to give constructive criticism and insightful design
advice to his peers.
As a creative director, marketing manager and fashion editor, Kyle has developed brand identities and creative strategies for a variety of businesses and written on a variety of fashion topics for ODDA and Lab A-4 magazines. With his background in advertising, he helps his clients understand complex ideas, motivates them to action and cooperates with media outlets to carry out successful brand strategies. But the madness doesn’t stop there. He is also a recipient of numerous international industry awards hosted by AVA, MarCom, Hermes and GDUSA, and a judge of several international awards competitions where he competently utilizes his passion for meaningful, quality design to give constructive criticism and insightful design advice to his peers.
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