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Mariko Mori at the Prada Fundation  
Francesca Romana Orlando
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, August 15th 1999, n. 194

Many philosophical researches demonstrate that fashion has substituded art in the production of aesthetic values. Let's think about the american philosopher Arthur Coleman Danto (The philosophical desenf ...) and to the provokations of the french philosopher Jean Baudrillard (The perfect murder), who considers fashion, together with plastic surgery, the most interesting possibility of enlarging the sense of the self. In my personal opinion, fashion has a huge visual strenght in producing the imagery of contemporary life and in expressing the sensibility of our time, just as Warhol believed, when he worked in the fashion field, undirectly with his friends and his collaboration with the most famous designers of the '60s and the '70s and, directly, when he produced original dresses (we suggest to read the catalouge of the exhibition The Warhol Look, held at the Barbican Centre in Londra in summer 1998).

The aesthetical contaminations between art and fashion are particularily interesting about Mariko Mori's exhibition because it takes place in the Foundation of one of the most prestigious fashion designers of our time and because the japaneese artist studied as a fashion designer at the Bunka Fashion College.

The Prada Foundation ( was born in 1995 by an idea of Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, who decided to restore the abandoned industrial building in order to promote contemporary art in Milan. Among the artists presented up to now, there are Louse Bourgeois and Dan Flavin.

Mariko Mori (Tokyo, 1967) is one of the more innovative artist in the contemporary art world, thanks to her imagery, so rich and surrealistic, and to her use of new sophisticated technologies. Her works are strong icons that often have as a subject the artist herself, for example portraited as an alien geisha or a priestess of a futuristic rite, in a strange encounter between kitsch and fetish. A very significant work of this kind of ambiguousness is the one presente to the Venice Biennale '97, entitled Birth of a Star of 1995 (, that shows the artist posing as a plastic dolly under a rain drop of colored baloons. It is a colored image, very pleasurable and absolutely empty of any symbolic meaning, just as a modern Campbell's Soup.

The works exhibited in Milan sign a further step in the creation of a more complex imagery, in which the artist intervenes as an element of reflection about to be and to appear. After all, all contemporary artists use their image to create a connection between reality and their own imagery; for example, Cindy Sherman, Ontani, Francesco Clemente. Warhol himself begun to use this kind of experimentation because he had understood how very important his image was as a symbol of celebrity. In fact, he made many self portraits in which he appeared transformed into different women (see the exhibition Polaroids at the Anthony D'Offay Gallery in London).

The exhibition opens with the sculpture of a plastic capsule, Enlightenment Capsule (1998), made by the Himawari system (sunflower, invented by the artist's father, Prof. Key Mori) that permit the illumination, by the use of optical fibres and a solar transmitter, of a lotus flower at the inside of it, giving the impression to the spectator that it floats in the capsule. This work has a very strong visual impact that links together technology and spirituality, with a typical japaneese sensibility.

The same research of a virtual sacrality (that is coming) is the main theme of the installation entitled Garden of Purification, an environment made of a salted sand (the salt is a religiuos element of purification in many religions). There are, moreover, five giant panels that create a unites photographical image that invites to meditation, Kumano. The same titled is given to the video installation that is before this garden and describes a wood in which the artist appears as a priest and as a dancer in a ritual cerimony. In the background there is a turquoise temple, that is also the main theme of the most ambitious work of the artist, a virtual multimedial architecture un'architettura, entitled Dream Temple.

This work need to years of work to be realized and was the product of the collaboration an équipe of japaneese, italian and american specialists. The Temple is inspired to the Yumedono, The Drean Temple, built in 739 a.C. near Nara in Japan. In fact, it has the same architectonical octagonal structure and it has the same religious function of comunication between the in and the out, that is to say between the material and the immaterial. This symbolical effect is obteined by the use of a dicroic glass, made of a special japanese glass, that is opaque or transparent according to the visual angle, with liquid cristals, that are able to make it opaque or transparent according to the human presence or absence, and with some decorative glasses from Murano. The artist explaines that: "i insisted to have a dicroic glass, because it changes so much and it near the image of self-consiousness, that changes every second, every instant". The most interesting aspect of this work is the projection of a video inside the Temple because it uses a new technology called VisionDome (projection in 3D), that express the most inner personal view of the artist. In it filmed images and graphic images are sintetized into a fluxus of light , that is the symbol of the dialectic between the phisical end the metaphisical, a central element in Mariko's art; she remembers that her interest for light begun when she visited the most famous european cathedrals, when she was just nine.

In my opinion Mariko Mori's work is paradigmatic of those new artists who use technological experimentation as an instrument to expand the limits of the visual. They do not just exhibit a phisical manipulation of light, but they make a visual elaboration of it, in order to go beyond the limits of the ordinary. In such a difficult moment for art, threatened by mass-media and by the danger of banal "painting canvases", Mariko Mori signs a breaking point, a challenge for the research of a deeper meaning and identity of art by the use of instruments and technologies that do not have yet a mass spreading and, for this reason, give to the spectator the emotion for the new, a feeling of amazement and partecipation, leading - maybe - to a further step towards the "thinking".

Mariko 	Mori, Kumano fig. 1
Mariko Mori,
Kumano, 1998



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