The Art of Mariko Mori: The Use of Body as a Subject Matter to Represent Issues of Identity and Culture in Her Society

How has the artist used the body as a subject matter to represent issues of identity ad culture in his/her society? Mariko Mori (born in Tokyo in 1967) is considered one of the major young representatives in the contemporary art scene. She worked as a fashion designer before and this inspired many of her later works. Mariko Mori uses her body to explore the “instability of identity” by presenting herself in glittering, self-designed costumes in extremely out of the world settings, juxtaposing reality and fantasy.

She approaches her work in a rather narcissistic way, documenting herself as different images, taking on different identities and roles to convey her intentions in her artworks. Her works is a mixture of culture and technology, art and performance, nature and spirituality. She is especially interested in the synthesis of opposites, mainly science and culture, the spiritual and the material and fantasy and reality.

While in New York, she was forced to question her identity as a Japanese woman in a variety of cultures and traditions and this experience gives her the insight required to compare and contrast cultures in the world and within an individual.

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Last Departure 1996 Cibachrome print, aluminium, wood, smoke aluminium / Tirage Cibachrome, aluminium, bois 6. 11 feet x 11. 11 feet x 3 inches / 213 x 365 x 7,5 cm AP/2+1AP Her artwork Last Departure, made in 1996, is an alternate dimension to our world and has the ability to draw the audience into her work.

It seems like Utopia, a virtual world where everything seems perfect. Mariko Mori is dressed as a cyber fairy, carrying a crystal ball.

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This character is similar to the one in her other work Miko no inori, where the character is seen to twist the crystal ball in her hands, as if commanding fate and the future. Being in the airport, which resembles her space ship, her character is probably heading off somewhere to seek for some sort of transformation within the individual. Upon further research, I found that some of her works are focused on Buddhism and fusing the spiritual mind with things of material worth.

Thus, this work suggests that her character is probably taking off to seek for enlightenment, in other words, the fulfillment of one’s inner spirit and thus aiming to be a perfect being. Miko no Inori 1996 This is shown in the way she dresses her character, as one not of this world, hinting at the spiritual part of an individual. Since she believes that human beings have both a material and spiritual part of themselves, there is a possibility that she is suggesting that we as individuals have to seek inside us to find our spiritual beings and use it as a way of self-transformation and renewal.

Also, with the setting being one of the future and in a world almost unreal, she suggests that this transformation is something innate and that in the future, we can learn to become a better, more perfect being by getting in touch with our spiritual side. On the other hand, her character and her very own identity also question the intention of her artwork. Being a Japanese in a Western society, she is more open to the views of culture and religion, being exposed to both the Western and Eastern philosophy and thus gaining insights of both.

In this artwork, she uses pop culture such as manga to influence the dressing of her character. By unifying both a philosophy from the East and her environment from the West, she could also suggest that in the future, people will become more mobile and perhaps, we will become more like one being as cultural boundaries start to blur. While wanting people to realize their innate ability for something purer, this work is a synthesis of both worlds and identities, the spiritual and the material, again suggesting that both can become one.

The use of vibrant and cool metallic colours give a sense of a world that we are unfamiliar with, possibly the future as these colours contrast with the usual earthly natural tones in our current world. The photographic effect of lighting in the photograph has emphasized the potency of the metallic colours due to the stark contrast between the foreground and the background. Adding on, the character appears to have reached a state of ‘perfection’, getting in touch with her spiritual side.

This place may seem to be a world of perfection, a Utopia due to the intensity and calming effect of the colours. Perhaps, Mariko Mori is suggesting that by letting ourselves get in touch with our inner spirit, we would be transcending the boundaries between the spiritual being and the material. Thus, as technology develops, it is expected that we ourselves also develop with it and achieving our perfect state in the future. This again bridges the divide between two separate realms; spiritual and worldly, eastern and western, initial fantasy into reality.

Therefore, this comes back to the idea of the instability of identity, that as human beings progress, this will result in the change of social norms and conventional boundaries of who, what we are. The symmetry and balance in the photograph not only brings focus to the 3 replicated fairies in the middle but also underscores the ‘perfection’ of this futuristic fantasy, the spiritual realm, something of a higher power that we may not yet be able to comprehend. The light at the back could represent the fairy setting off in search of enlightenment, the spaceship a metaphor for this idea.

The illusion of space created between the subject matter and the undefined horizon, the runway, could represent the huge gulf between humanity and our needed state of perfection, implying how far we are from enlightenment. It could hint at the many possibilities for humanity, what we have to change and to retain to be able to become more ‘perfect’ and ‘pure’. In conclusion, the volatility of our identity is related to the possible synthesis of opposites. As technology improves, cultural boundaries and other conventional boundaries fall apart and mask our identity even more. References:

Last departure, Mariko Mori http://www. galerieperrotin. com/Mariko_Mori-works-oeuvres-1469-6. html Hatje Cantz, Mariko Mori http://www. hatjecantz. de/en/collectorseditions/detail. php? titzif=09201967 Arty, Mariko Mori http://www. artandculture. com/users/197-mariko-mori Art and electronic media, Miko no Inori http://artelectronicmedia. com/artwork/miko-no-inori Haussponsor des Kunsthaus Bregenz, Mariko Mori http://www. kunsthaus-bregenz. at/ehtml/aus_mori. htm http://www. kunsthaus-bregenz. at/ehtml/aus_mori. htm http://artelectronicmedia. com/artwork/miko-no-inori Kunie Sugiura, Interview with Mariko Mori ttp://www. jca-online. com/mori. html http://www. google. com/search? client=safari&rls=en&q=miko+no+inori&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 Gibson Winter, Mariko Mori’s Spiritual Exploration http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qa3818/is_199901/ai_n8840262/ dinani08, Mariko Mori http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=tkIsSSIpYzQ;feature=related Jerry Saltz ,A Zone of Her Own http://www. villagevoice. com/1999-04-20/art/a-zone-of-her-own/ voljavideo, Miko no Inori http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=Bwl6G9L6bk8 Carter B. Horsley, Contemporary Art http://www. thecityreview. com/s01pcon1. html

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The Art of Mariko Mori: The Use of Body as a Subject Matter to Represent Issues of Identity and Culture in Her Society. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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