Questions of Cultural Identity and Difference in the work of Yasumasa Morimura, Mariko Mori and Takashi Murakami
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the work of three contemporary Japanese artists - Yasumasa Morimura, Mariko Mori and Takashi Murakami - in relation to cross-cultural exchanges and differences between Japan and the West. In carrying out such an investigation, this study illustrates how these artists play with Japanese and Western cultural forms in the context of postmodern challenges to concepts of essence and authenticity, and in a technologically transformed world shaped by unprecedented global flows of information, people, products and capital. In Morimura's art-making, this play is characterized by appropriations and parodies of Western cultural icons. The idea of identity-as-essence is superseded by a vision of identity-as-performance - a conception of identity as a creative act, taking place within an immanent system of global exchanges. Whilst Morimura's work tends to reify difference, for Mori the opposite is true. Melding arcane scientific and religious ideas, Mori creates technological spectacles with which she fantasizes a vanishing of determinate identities and difference within the encompassing field of a culturally amorphous techno-holism. Murakami's 'superflat' art raises the possibility of resolving this tension between the reification and effacing of difference. In his work, 'Japan' and 'the West' are represented as discrete entities that, at the same time, emerge already entangled, as effects in a preexisting system of global exchanges.