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July 2008, Interview with Mariko Mori


Mariko Mori, Installation view, Miracle, 2001, courtesy the artist, Deitch Projects, NY and Baltic Museum for Contemporary Art

Becky Hunter interviews Mariko Mori

Mariko Mori is a Japanese artist, working with photography, installation, drawing and video and continuously experimenting with old and new technologies. Her work as a fashion model influenced her early photographic pieces where she was able to take control of her own image. She now lives and works in New York, where last year she had a solo show, Tom Na H-Iu, at Deitch Projects. Mori’s Wave UFO project has traveled internationally since 2003; it was included in the 2005 Venice Biennale. Her current exhibition at Baltic, Newcastle/Gateshead, UK, continues her interest in exploring consciousness, as well as being influenced by brane cosmology and particle theory.

BH: Your latest installation at the Baltic is called Miracle. Do you believe in miracles? Or do you think art might be a kind of miracle?

MM:
I think that the term miracle is very difficult to define, but often I experience [something like it] during the process of making work. I have coincidence, I have some support, I have good surprises, sometimes a good accident, and it seems to me, not every work, but some work, has very much a feeling of blessing, feeling like something not only from my ability but it could be a corporate effort. I can’t give evidence, but I know that the work was supposed to be produced and exist and it almost has its own destiny, like a human being or any other living being. If you can call that ‘miracle’, possibly you could say that. But when you think about the existence of living beings on the earth, it seems to me very close to a miracle to have a living being, because we know there’s not much life in the universe apart from us. It’s a very long answer but I don’t know…

BH:
No I think it’s interesting, I did wonder. I know you have mentioned your interest in nature. It seems like you have a respect for human life and other kinds of life... How do you feel about nature and does that come into your work?

MM:
We are also part of nature. We are just one kind of all the species that are on the earth. And so we are very much part of nature, we are protected by nature, through oxygen, everything is very much sustained by nature. Human beings are not extra, inside of nature, that is how important it is for us, that is fundamental for us as well.

BH:
And do you think that comes into your artwork?

MM: Yes.

BH:
Can you explain how it does?


MM:
I’m in the process of learning about nature, since I’ve been living in the city most of my life, so I am trying to expose myself to nature, to feel the rhythm of nature and also trying to understand the balances of nature. And also trying to feel the beauty of nature - that certainly does inspire me and hopefully I am able to produce work that can exist within nature.


 
Mariko Mori, Miracle, detail, 2001,
 courtesy the artist, Deitch Projects, NY and Baltic Museum for Contemporary Art

BH:
And do you want your work to have any particular effect on the audience that views it? For example you said of the show at Baltic that you would like people to have a different kind of consciousness. Is that something that you think can really happen?


MM: Well… there are two installations in the exhibition. One is an installation called Miracle, the other is a drawing that I have been making for the last couple of years. I drew these drawings in Okinawa Island where I spent some time with nature and this is something that I felt by being there. I can’t articulate it with words, I can’t explain it linguistically, but I could draw, do some drawings, how I kind of felt. It’s filtered by my own body, but the experience that is in the drawings is like kind of a memory, so I’m hoping that people can feel a certain essence and can share some feeling through my work.

BH:
You’re very optimistic about what art can do, I think…

MM:
Optimistic?

BH:
About the power of art or about the power of something visual, that it can be shared with other people, which I think is really good. Like you’re not skeptical about it.


MM:
Well if you’re skeptical about life then it becomes skeptical, it will come back to you. Life is never easy and it always has a lot of problems and troubles and unexpected things, but at the same time if you believe in what you do and if you believe in something that you feel is important, I’m very sure that will come back to you in a different kind of… you know, it could be an experience or it could come back as belief, but definitely, your attitude will come back to yourself.

BH:
That’s a really good thing for me to hear today!


(Mariko laughs)

BH:
That’s really helpful… Something else that interested me is when you’re working with other people, collaborating so you can get your ideas made technically, how is that experience for you? With technicians and programmers and that kind of thing.

MM:
It’s really a wonderful experience to collaborate with other people. You know, to share some goal together and try to produce the work together. It’s really nice to collaborate with a specialist, who are really masters in their field and we can interact intellectually and also support each other and help each other and that is probably a very fruitful experience during the process of making work.

BH:
Because you’re the artist in all of this, how do you view the creative input of your collaborators? Are you very much in control of what’s happening as the artist, or is it more of a shared thing?


MM:
First of all, the idea comes first, and when I have an idea I try to think about how I can project this idea and how I can conceive the idea in materials. Then sometimes the technology is not yet introduced or developed and then I have to find engineers to develop new technology in order to produce the work. Sometimes, you know, if I lose the balance, the point of making the work can be in danger. But always trying to come back [to the point] because the process of making the work is sometimes three to four years, and I always have to come back to the very essence, the very fundamental and primal point so I don’t lose it during the process of making the work. Sometimes I have learned more about what I want to produce during the process of making the work, because I have to be sure and I have to be certain so I question myself at each stage and then my idea becomes sometimes clearer than the very first point of initiative.


 
 Mariko Mori, Miracle, detail, 2001,
 courtesy the artist, Deitch Projects, NY and Baltic Museum for Contemporary Art



BH:
How would you describe that feeling of it becoming clear? Is it like recognising what it is that you really wanted to make?


MM:
Well it’s the same thing as life, when you really have a problem. For example if I am faced by some technical issue, a technical wall that I can’t get through, then I will think, do I really need to use this technology, is it really important for the work? It’s the same thing in life, when you have a problem, it makes you realise, well why am I doing this, what’s the point of doing this? You know, you question yourself, so in the process sometimes I become more aware of what I need to produce.

BH:
That’s helpful. I’ll just ask one more question… I’d like to ask about music – you’ve said that your husband is a composer and so there’s always music around. Is it an influence on your work?


MM:
His music sometimes appears in my work and so we do collaborate from time to time. Also when I do a performance, I sometimes do collaborate with him. We can share a space and an idea and sometime it is …

BH:
Holistic?


MM:
...inspiring.

BH:
Like different art forms being able to join in with each other?


MM: Yes. You know, when we think about the traditional arts, perhaps like opera, [the visual and auditory join together]…and it’s really only recently that they have become completely independent of each other. And sometimes it is more helpful to create… our bodies, we see things, we hear things, and we taste things and we have all the five senses and sometimes it’s very effective if you produce something that is stimulating all those senses.

BH:
That makes sense, because sometimes it can be frustrating when everything is put in different boxes and you can only have visuals or you can only have sound as if they shouldn’t be together, but you have put them together.

MM: Because our life is like that…

Mariko Mori’s exhibition at Baltic, Newcastle/Gateshead, UK, continues until 14 September 2008.

Many thanks to Mariko for speaking to me twice, equally as thoughtfully the second time, after my dictaphone mangled the first interview attempt.

Becky Hunter


Becky Hunter is a writer based in London and Durham, UK. She is Assistant Editor for Whitehot Magazine.
rebeccalouisehunter(at)yahoo.co.uk
www.beckyhunter.co.uk

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