Exclusive: Mariko Mori Bends Space and Time

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2nd Oct 2008




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Mariko Mori, photo by David Sims
Somehow, the artist Mariko Mori has drifted from the outer reaches of the contemporary art world to a position that not only captures the zeitgeist of an enlightened age, but shapes the very age itself. She has long been famous for her engaging work, which often explores Buddhist or eastern principles expressed through technology in a way that reconciles the two, and her recent work is known for its ability to find the warm, comforting soul that so often feels missing in postmodernism.

As an artist, Mori examines the timeless links of humanity – life and death, our role in and with nature, and the newer application of technology to the human experience. She has also long enthralled, producing work that evokes everything from pop kitsch to zen imperialism, perhaps drawing energy from Duchamp and Dali, with a nod to Warhol, but expressed in a way that defines the leading waves of elitist thought in her age as they did theirs.

Her latest work goes a step beyond, and in its own way shapes the passage of time and space in their relation to each other. To think that she does this through the power of intellect is both inspiring and possibly… evolutionary?

Hub Culture sat down with Mariko Mori at the Albion Gallery in London this week to explore her most recent work, on display in a special exhibition running through 22 December, 2006. It is her first solo exhibition in the UK since 1998.

Leading the exhibition is Tom na H-iu, a 4.5 meter glass sculpture with programmed LED lighting that links to celestial data. Tom na H-iu displays (in a form) supernovae explosions, the rise and fall of stars, and atmospheric conditions by recording the arrival of neutrinos, (heavy atomic particles that bombard the earth from space) via a real-time internet link to a super computer that records such happenings at the Super-Kamiokande Observatory at the University of Tokyo.

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Tom na H-iu, LED supernovae, links to celestial data
The Mori path is fascinating. The discovery of neutrinos, (a form of heavy atom emitted from supernovaes and solar impacts) proved that elements that go into the building blocks of life arrived on Earth from stars. "Heavy atoms from supernovaes helped create life… and the death of a star helps to create life here." – because a star's explosion sends those neutrinos, over much time and space, to Earth. Without those heavy atoms, life here could not exist.

This extension of cycles – that a star has a birth, life and death much as we do, that the death of a star generates life somewhere else, fits strongly with her zen principals, but interprets it at a new level. Who else uses technology and science to interpret zen principles?

In the Albion gallery itself is a 13 image photographic work entitled Beginning of the End: Past, Present and Future that presents meditations on inner peace through a person's relationship to the environment. In it, Mori presents herself in a plexiglass pod in famous locations, such as the Pyramids and Angkor Wat (past), Times Square and Shibuya (present), Shanghai and Dubai (future).

The idea is that a space can transcend time andlocation, and the images capture a sense of continuity between locations in time that are not connected in space, and locations in space that are not connected in time. Linked.

It's all linked! "I wanted to introduce the idea that addresses our perception that time is quite linear between past and future - I believe time is more interwoven, like a mobius band," she says. "People focus on the big bang as the beginning, but there was a time before the big bang."

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Mariko Mori: Dream Temple, photo by Richard Learoyd
Mori points out that the scientific world has proven the existence of at least eleven dimensions, but modern man, removed from nature, has littleconcept of these dimensions.

In her preparations for the photographic work Mori visited prehistoric monuments and installations, including the Orkney Islands, looking at Druidic and Celtic traditions.

In them, she found commonality and a sense of understanding that inspired her work, and came away with a sense that prehistoric peoples understood more dimensions than we do today."Prehistorical people sensed more dimensions than we do. Their exposure to nature taught them ideas and wisdom, and what we are lacking at the moment are these perceptions for nature, because we separate and remove ourselves from nature. In our time only Aboriginals still have this sense used in everyday life."

"I am interested that prehistoric cultures were interested in reincarnation. In Buddhism a deeper consciousness remains and you pass it on to the next life. I felt connectedness between old symbols – the pyramids, Angkor Wat…"

And the core of the experience aids her in her ultimate search: that of universal human ideas. "The quality of a human being is to share ideas," she says.

In that voyage she discovered something: between 3000 B.C. and 2500 B.C. civilizations around the world, connected loosely in time but not in location, coalesced roughly similar ideas – about the solstice, life and death, and the size of man in the universe, and expressed that in their physical surroundings. It's what lends that creepy feeling that civilizations referenced each other – from the Aztecs to the Incas, Egyptians to the age of Angkor.

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Mathematical calculations: The Giza Pyramids, Egypt
Mori leads from aesthetics – the body of her work has always referenced them, and that may come from her background and her training. But in the new Mori we sense something more than aesthetics, more than a message – there is an evolution in her work that feels strangely… prehistoric.

Is she leading a new enlightenment? Does she see a dimension the rest of us can only feel? There's a reason Mori's internet fans refer to her as "Her Majesty" – but for the sake of all, let's remember one thing: for Mori the highest state of being is to create and share universal ideas. From her pop kitsch beginnings, she is now focused on the really big picture: birth and rebirth, life and death... the transmorgation of the soul.

Mariko Mori
9 October – 22 December 2006
The Albion
8 Hester Road
London SW11 4AX
United Kingdom