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Mariko Mori: Reflection and Rebirth

Published on
October 16

         Sometimes I feel like every year is a rebirth for me. I’ve only been living in New York City for a little over a month, and yet I’m already so accustomed to my jam-packed routine here that it is easy to forget that, just a few months ago, I was living a very different life in a small town in New Hampshire. Life is full of changes, and each one brings with it the death of something old and a rebirth into something new.

          This idea of rebirth is represented quite beautifully and powerfully in a new exhibit at the Japan Society gallery, aptly named “Rebirth.” This exhibit is dedicated solely to the recent work of Mariko Mori, much of which is being displayed in the United States for the first time. While many of the works are quite striking without explanation, I recommend taking a docent-led tour (Tuesday through Sunday at 2:30 pm, with an additional tour Friday night at 7:00 pm) to gain insight into Mori’s philosophies and creative processes. 

          Many of Mori’s pieces revolve around light – either reflecting it or creating its own. Because of that, many of the galleries are quite dark. This makes Mori’s luminous pieces even more striking. It also makes for a uniquely peaceful museum experience. The first room of the exhibit featured only three pieces by Mori, each one laid out in a precise pattern on the floor. When I attended, I was one of only three people on a docent-led tour, so it felt like I was alone with these powerful works. One particularly striking piece featured nine oblong objects arranged in a circle reminiscent of Stonehenge. Each object alternated in its own gentle cycle of lights and colors, representing the movements of planets around the sun. It was a beautiful and powerful way to express the interconnectedness of the universe.

          The exhibit includes several other large pieces, as well as drawings Mori created using colored pencil and glitter on very thick paper. Mori divides her time between many different countries around the globe, but she has a special ritual for her time in Japan: every single day, she wakes up, walks to the ocean, and draws another of these pictures, trying to find a way to capture her meditations on paper. Her pencil-strokes are light and delicate, yet precise. No two drawings are the same, yet some are given the same number because Mori was attempting to capture the same meditative feelings. It is fascinating to look for these works, to compare the similar forms and structures in each, to try to gain insight into Mori’s meditations.

          Perhaps the most striking piece was “White Hole.” A dark curving pathway leads to a large circular room, with a huge oval screen projecting a gently swirling ball of​ white light. I can’t do justice in writing to the power of that work. It was such a beautiful, peaceful place. Even the docent was quiet inside the exhibit – in this case, it could speak for itself.

          Mori’s work is truly inspiring and unique, and it is displayed at the Japan Society gallery in such a peaceful, contemplative way. When I left the exhibit, I truly felt relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated. Experiencing this incredible exhibit, in some ways, is a rebirth of its own. 

          Photo Credit: www.japansociety.org

          Top-Left Photo: Mariko Mori (b. 1967), Primal Memory (detail), 2004. Lucite; 9 7/8 x 50 x 51 inches. Courtesy of SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, Tokyo and Sean Kelly, New York. Photo by Richard Learoyd.

          Bottom-Right Photo: Mariko Mori (b. 1967), White Hole, 2008-10. Acrylic and LED lights; 136 1/8 x 103 1/2 inches. Courtesy of SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, Tokyo and Sean Kelly, New York. Supported by Comunidad de Madrid. Photo by Adam Laycock.