Art Department

Back to Contents of Issue: May 2001

by Andrew Pothecary

All of the people that I met in the first decades of my life, with most of the other people in the world, have met their end ...

In the years after this great disaster, the world completely changed. People ... cities ... everything ... disappeared under the sea ...

This is not something about lamenting over death, nor is it a blessing in the form of new life -- in fact, it's not even something that we can pursue ... it is simply about choosing death for ourselves as a race.

And yet, we survive.

This is the place where perfect harmony and equality dwell. -- Excerpt from Mie, in Miwa Yanagi's My Grandmothers series

A COUPLE OF YEARS back, Miwa Yanagi's computer-assembled pictures featured replicant office ladies in bland malls and offices -- a disturbing world that was neither real nor science fiction. (Yanagi says it was "neither the past, the present, nor the future, just a mixture of my desire and nightmare.")

Her current work has shifted, although it still contains similar aspects. She's working on a series of pictures called My Grandmothers, in which she invites young women to imagine themselves in 50 years' time. She borrows their ideas to create her own imagined grandmothers and ideal older women. While she uses the computer less this time around, it is still (as in Mie, click here) a tool that helps to assemble the situation, creating an indeterminate yet somehow real world.

Yanagi is aware of technology's uses and limitations, and she allows the expression of both in her work. When a new technology is introduced, at first there can be something "off" about artwork that uses it -- something she sees as part of the conflict between the "soft" (imagination) and "hard" (material) of a piece. She let that something percolate into her earlier work, and it lingers in her new creations -- maybe because she sees something "off" in society anyway. She perceives of working in society "like performing in a narrow box," which stems from the mechanical, mindless routines she observed on her commute as a teacher through shopping areas ("If you look at that kind of place all the time you start wanting to destroy it," she says).

But where the women in her previous work seemed almost blithely trapped in such a world, the subjects in her new work are freer -- even when living happily in an end-of-civilization world like Mie.

You've just missed her exhibition in Osaka, but it will be part of the Yokohama Triennale in September. Meanwhile, see for ongoing images, or even to volunteer yourself as your imagined grandma. -- Andrew Pothecary

Note: The function "email this page" is currently not supported for this page.