Art Reviews

REVIEW: Rebirth by Mariko Mori

Reviewed by: Freya Hall
Image credit: Harmonicenvironments

Internationally acclaimed contemporary Japanese artist Mariko Mori is frequently touted as one of the most influential and important artists of our time. Rebirth, currently showing at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Australia. The exhibition is foundational not only for this reason, but also due to its exploration of the transcendental theme of interconnectedness in a way that is both visually exciting and sublimely meditative.

Mariko Mori rose to prominence in the 1990s with her collection of playful self-portraits that explored the juxtaposition between contemporary Japanese society and the nation’s ancient traditions. Since then, Mori has expanded her practice to focus primarily on exploring the interface that exists between humanity, nature, and the broader cosmos. Rebirth explores these themes through an expansive collation of sculptures, drawings, and videos made by the artist between 1998 and 2015.

Consistent with the concept of rebirth, the exhibition features many cyclical repetitions. Notably, when visitors enter the exhibition they are met by a glowing, floating, ring with a wall of water behind it. The soothing sound of running water emanating from this artwork (aptly named Ring) resonates throughout the exhibition space. The path then veers anti-clockwise, past a number of smaller spherical rooms with their own winding circular entrances, concluding once again back at Ring.

Ring (2012) is a small-scale model of a future, site-specific, permanent sculpture that is set to be installed in Brazil in 2016. The ‘ring’ will be approximately 3m in diameter and float in front of a real waterfall. Mori is endeavouring to erect similar, site-specific artworks in each of the 6 habitable continents, and was seen scouting for a location for an Australian installation when she was in Perth in February.

Mariko Mori, Miracle, 2001. Seven cibachrome prints, diachronic glass, salt, and crystals
Mariko Mori, Miracle, 2001. Seven cibachrome prints, diachronic glass, salt, and crystals

The hypnotic beauty of this exhibition is typified by the artwork Miracle (2001). This work consists of 7 dichroic glass cylinders embossed with cibachrome prints that are hung horizontally along a stark hallway. The colour and shape of the cylinders appear to morph as you walk past them, all the while casting vibrant, aquamarine shadows onto the carpeted floor. This work is both micro and macrocosmic in theme: it reflects upon Mori’s exploration of Alaya-vijnana (a state of internal consciousness and doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism) and also the existence of an all-encompassing celestial cosmos.

Mariko Mori, White Hole, 2008-2010. Acrylic, LED lights, Control System.
Mariko Mori, White Hole, 2008-2010. Acrylic, LED lights, Control System.

Rebirth also includes a number of artworks that focus upon the theoretical possibility of white holes. In astrophysics white holes are considered the antithesis of black holes, as they are able to reinvigorate and renew the energy that they destroy. The artwork White Hole (2008-2010) is housed inside a pitch black, domed enclosure that gradually illuminates with the projection of a swirling light. As you enter the room, minute particulars of light begin to merge into a whirling line and eventually into a pulsating, three-dimensional, body of white light. This transformation signifies the imagined annihilation and rebirth of a star.

Mariko Mori is renowned for her uncanny ability to fuse technology and art in a way that can only be paradoxically described as serene. Rebirth is no exception to this; it is an enchanting and immersive exhibition that adopts various mechanised and technologically based artistic techniques in order to induce contemplation and highlight the world’s interconnectedness.

Rebirth will be on display at the Art Gallery of Western Australia until 29 June 2015. Entry is free.