Alter Ego

Mariko Mori: Cybergeishas, technonolgy and religion

The Japanese-born artist Mariko Mori, creates work featuring  cybergeishas and other Manga-influenced characters. Moriko Mori has long made art characterized by a sci-fi sensibility that seems ineluctably linked to the city and the future. Her work also touches on a number of subjects like adolescent fantasy, narcissism, pop culture, religion & fashion.

Mori is fascinated by the way contemporary Japanese society balances technology, fantasy, and humanity. With an affectionate perspective on her native country, she explores the way fantasy and reality overlap in contemporary Japanese consciousness. Hers is a world where cartoon characters step out of comic books to stalk the real streets and real people withdraw from their grim routine to lose themselves in cartoon fantasies.

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Matthew Barney’s “CREMASTER” Films

Matthew Barney is the producer and creator of the “CREMASTER” films, a series of five visually extravagant works created out of sequence (“CREMASTER 4” began the cycle, followed by “CREMASTER 1,” etc.). The films generally feature Barney in myriad roles, including characters as diverse as a satyr, a magician, a ram, Harry Houdini, and even the infamous murderer Gary Gilmore. The title of the films refers to the muscle that raises and lowers the male reproductive system according to temperature, external stimulation, or fear. The films themselves are a grand mixture of history, autobiography, and mythology, an intensely private universe in which symbols and images are densely layered and interconnected. The resulting cosmology is both beautiful and complex.

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Carlos Amorales Vs. Amorales Interim

Growing out of a series of experiments with the mask, a fictional character behind a mask called ‘Amorales’ was created and lent to different individuals to perform in various situations where it was continuously emptied and filled up again with different ‘contents’ working almost invisibly, as a catalyst, within restricted frameworks. Using fictional identity as a ‘working tool’ Carlos Amorales found Mexican wrestling (lucha libre) offering that complex but flexible structure that helped him to develop his experiments further. The black and white reincarnations of confronting powers of Evil and Good exposed the archetypal aspects of relevant social and political positions.

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Tim Hawkinson

The source of inspiration for many of Hawkinson’s pieces has been the re-imagining of his own body and what it means to make a self-portrait of this new or fictionalized body. In 1997 the artist created an exacting, two-inch tall skeleton of a bird from his own fingernail parings, and later made a feather and egg from his own hair. Believable even at a close distance, these works reveal Hawkinson’s attention to detail as well as his obsession with life, death, and the passage of time.

“Tim Hawkinson’s fantastical works suggest the profound strangeness of life, matter, and time. Interweaving images of bodies and machines, at scales that vary from the monumental to the nearly microscopic, Hawkinson conjures a world that teeters on the cusp between the real and unreal,” remarks exhibition curator Lawrence Rinder, adjunct curator at the Whitney and dean of graduate studies at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. From his visually compelling miniature sculptures of birds and bird eggs entirely made from his own fingernail clippings, to his huge, sprawling mechanical wind instruments constructed of inflatable plastic tubes and ducts, Hawkinson’s oeuvre is a meditation on nature, machines, the body and human consciousness.

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Anthony Goicolea’s Pre-adolescent Boys

Anthony Goicolea’s photographs of “pre-adolescent boys” question childhood & school-life with transgressive and erotic imagery. Goicolea himself portrays all of the boys in his photographs through the astute use of costumes, wigs, make-up, and post-production editing via the software Adobe Photoshop.

“You and What Army” I act out childhood incidents such as fight scenes, first kisses, and deranged play dates. These works are simultaneously rooted in nostalgia and science fiction.


Anthony Goicolea
You and What Army Series: Class Picture

Many of the sets are constructed to depict suburban environments in which the cast of characters are seen undertakeing painfully awkward transformations as they undergo the journey from childhood to adulthood.

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Yasumasa Morimura: Requiem for the XX Century

The self-portraits by the Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura, Requiem for the XX Century: Twilight of the Turbulent Gods, examines an array of historical figures and political events that have been significant in shaping the 20th century. Employing his usual methodology, Morimura uses costumes, make-up and props to create unconventional and bold renderings of iconic images from history.

While Morimura’s work has traditionally investigated femininity through iconic depictions of women from art history and popular culture, this body of work examines widely disseminated images of prominent masculine figures from the last century. Each protagonist or event is cast in a moment of apogee, when history is being made and visually captured. Substituting himself for ideologues, dictators or brilliant minds such as Einstein, Lenin, Che, Mao or Trotsky, Morimura reflects on his personal encounter of these images during his lifetime as well notions of masculinity embedded in politics and war. By re-contextualizing portraits and events into present day, Morimura offers a fresh look at these prominent men who, moved by wisdom, hate, ideology or idealism have carved a space in our collective psyche.

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Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977–80) have been canonized as a hallmark of postmodernist art, which frequently utilized mass-media codes and techniques of representation in order to comment on contemporary society. In this series of 69 black-and-white photographs, Sherman posed herself in various melodramatic guises that recall the stereotypical feminine characters presented in 8 x 10 publicity stills for B-grade movies from the 1950s and 1960s. The personae she created range from ingenue lost in the big city to martini-wielding party girl to jilted lover to hausfrau. Untitled Film Still, #15 depicts the tough girl with a heart of gold.

Contrary to the media images they appropriate, which may require a transparent sense of realism to sell an illusion, Sherman’s stills have an artifice that is heightened by the often visible camera cord, slightly eccentric props, unusual camera angles, and by the fact that each image includes the artist, rather than a recognizable actress or model.

Cindy Sherman.
Untitled Film Still #7

In the early 1980s Sherman continued to explore stereotypes of femininity and female representation found in popular culture, such as the centerfold format of pornographic magazines. She also began to use color in her work; her painterly sensibility is apparent in Untitled, #112 and subsequent photographs. Untitled, #112 is also one of the first images in which the artist portrays a more masculine identity. This gender ambiguity, along with the way the unusually lit figure emerges from the black background, yields an unsettling sensation. These effects become ominous and even frightening in later works in which Sherman portrays more disheveled and malign characters.

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #209

Untitled, #167 is from Sherman’s Disasters series, which directly investigates grotesque and disgusting subject matter. The sense of foreboding elicited by earlier works is more overt, suggesting the terror of horror films (a genre that significantly focuses on female victims). Untitled, #167 depicts the scene of a gruesome crime. Emerging from the dirt are the nose, lips, and red-painted fingertips of a blonde, apparently female, victim.

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #216

A discarded Polaroid photographic sheath suggests documentation (either by a police officer or perhaps the villain, whose reflection appears in an open makeup compact), and obliquely implicates the artist as photographic voyeur. The very darkness of the image and the reflectiveness of the photograph’s surface make it difficult for the viewer to scrutinize the scene. Untitled, #167 foreshadows Sherman’s use of prosthetic body parts in her later works, as well as the gradual elimination of her own likeness.

Sherman’s reputation was established early on with her Untitled Film Stills, a series of black-and-white photographs from the late 1970s in which the artist depicted herself dressed in the guises of clichéd B-movie heroines. In photograph after photograph, Sherman was ever present, and yet never really there—her ready adaptation of a range of personae highlighting the masquerade of identity. Her appropriation of the space on both sides of the lens destabilized the traditional opposition between artist and model, object and subject—one that had been theorized by film critics in terms of spectatorship and its gendered codes of looking.

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #96

If the Untitled Film Stills elicited debate concerning the construction of woman-as-image, the photographs Sherman made throughout the mid-1980s served to perpetuate this discourse. Her Centerfolds (1981) and Fashion (1983–84) series elaborated the codes of what film theorist Laura Mulvey termed the “to-be-looked-at-ness” of female representation. Emulating the signifiers of the centerfold, the closely cropped photographs reveal a body that is available to the camera and bathed in a vivid light. Sherman’s choice of subject compounds the voyeuristic impression established in the works.

Feeling pigeonholed by the feminist discourse that surrounded her work, Sherman gradually dispensed with representations of the female, often removing herself from the picture and moving toward more fantastic and lurid imagery, as in her Fairy Tales and Disasters series from the mid- to late 1980s. The ever-increasing market for her photographs also prompted this turn, challenging her to attempt to create work that was “unsaleable” due to its visceral depictions of vomit, body parts, and grotesque fairy tales. Simultaneously, she instilled the works with a heightened sense of artifice created by garish colors and gaps that reveal the fiction behind the illusion.

Art 21 Episode: Transformation

Watch Transformation on PBS. See more from ART:21.