Mariko Mori at Brooklyn Museum of Art (1999)

R.J. Preece (ADP)
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This review previously appeared in World Sculpture News, 5(4), pp. 81-2 and Asian Art News, 9(5), p. 110 (1999).

Mariko Mori at Brooklyn Museum of Art

Another prolific young contemporary art superstar has been making the international rounds. This spring and summer, Mariko Mori’s work descended from its cosmic heights on New York for an 11-work exhibition of large-scale, compute-generated photographs and timely, big-budget multi-media installations addressing interests in pop culture, tradition, and identity.

Entitled Empty Dream, Mariko Mori’s exhibition included selected works which have saturated international art publications. These include her now iconic Tea Ceremony (1995), where Mariko Mori poses as a combined space-age cartoon character and a Tokyo office woman serving tea on a sidewalk—avoided by passing by salarymen. Birth of a Star (1995) acts prophetically for the artist, and illustrates Mariko Mori adopting the role of pop idol with android eyes. An audio CD plays Mori singing Tokyo pop, and the works title alludes to a popular Japanese TV talent show.

Meanwhile, the five-panel cibachrome print installation Empty Dream (1995) situates the artist-turned-mermaid inside a Japanese indoor beach amidst family outings—addressing fantasy, authentic versus counterfeit, and popular culture. These works depict the emptiness of consumer culture resulting in part from rapid technological and economic success. The Empty Dream is wickedly magnified and represented into a state of vacuousness and conformity.

The Mariko Mori-centric art continues, yet takes a religious twist and embraces spiritual thought. In Nirvana (1997), she offers three-dimensional video combining imagery taken in the Dead Sea with Mori performing a dance employing mudra, traditional hand positions used in Buddhist art to evoke a particular state of mind. Esoteric Cosmic (1996-1998) is an installations consisting of five large-scale manipulated photographic images of America’s Painted Desert, the Gobi Desert, a cave in the South of France, and the Dead Sea, “that refer to the forces of nature as conceived in Buddhism: wind, fire, water, earth, and empty space.” With Enlightenment Capsule (1996-1998), the artist moves away from Mori-centric work to Mori family history. Using a mechanism invented by her father to bring actual sunlight from the exterior deep into an interior, Mariko Mori uses plastic, a solar transmitting device, and fiber optic cables which illuminate the sculptural form of a large-scale lotus. The work reflects outside conditions and on cloudy days, light barely emits from the sculpture.

The exhibition was organized by Charlotte Kotik, chairperson of the Department of Painting and Sculpture and curator of contemporary art at the Museum, and “is an adaptation of installations” previously seen at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Serpentine Gallery in London. In 1997, Mariko Mori was a price winner at the Venice Biennale. She maintains studios in New York and Tokyo.