Japan Pavilion at the 51st International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale in 2005

Outline of the Biennale

Director: Maria de Corral / Rosa Martinez (Spain)
Thema: L'esperienza dell'arte / The Experience of Art
Sempre un po' piu lontano / Always a Little Further
Venues: Giardini di Castello, Venice Arsenale, Venice
Exhibition Dates: June 12-November 6, 2005
Web site: http://www.labiennale.org

National Participation: Japanese Pavilion

Organizer: The Japan Foundation
Commissioner: Michiko Kasahara
Participating Artist: Miyako Ishiuchi
Title: Mother's 2000-2005 — traces of the future

From Mother's series (c) Miyako Ishiuchi 1

Mother's #52
(150.0×100.0cm / direct print)
collection of the artist (2003)

From Mother's series (c) Miyako Ishiuchi 2

Mother's #39
(100.0×150.0cm / direct print)
collection of the artist (2002)

From Mother's series (c) Miyako Ishiuchi 3
Mother's #49
(74.0×108.0cm / gelatin silver print)
collection of the artist (2002)

Miyako Ishiuchi’s Mother’s provides a portrait of a woman who was a forerunner of the independent women of today’s Japan. The heroine of this story is a woman born in a rural village in the Northern Kanto region in 1916. She obtained her driver’s license at age 18 and went to Manchuria to work. She was married there, but her husband was soon drafted and sent to the front.

She returned to her hometown in Japan during the war and drove a truck hauling military materials. During that period, she met a young student who had been mobilized and sent to work at a nearby air field. When the war ended, she encouraged him to return to college, and after he graduated they began living together in the village. Her husband had been reported dead but returned after the war. She was pregnant at the time, so she paid severance money to her husband and obtained a divorce by mutual agreement.

Ishiuchi’s Mother’s series begins with an old photograph of the woman who lived this turbulent life. It shows a large truck, probably of American make, with the door open on the driver’s side. A small young woman wearing a long skirt and blouse, a belt cinched tight around her waist, stands next to it with a dazzling smile. The other works in the exhibition show objects that she once owned.

From Mother's series (c) Miyako Ishiuchi 4
Mother's #53
(74.0×108.0cm / gelatin silver print)
collection of the artist (2000)

These photographs, including “portraits” of chemises and girdles, seem to embody the will of the person who wore them. There are also images of several partially-used tubes of lipstick in different colors, a comb with hair still caught in it, false teeth and wigs, and close-ups of plants and skin. Ishiuchi has carefully selected a variety of “things” left by her mother as a way of quietly observing their relationship, which she reports as discordant, while contemplating a “sadness beyond imagination.”

She is performing the task of resuscitating the existence of her mother as a woman. She links her name as an artist with the name of her mother in this series. As Miyako Ishiuchi, an independent contemporary woman, she pays homage to Miyako Ishiuchi, another independent contemporary woman who has continued to live vigorously for 84 years. Her work gives a realistic picture of the great changes that have occurred in the consciousness of contemporary women.

Contemporary art reflects contemporary society and looks ahead to the near future, and the photographs of Miyako Ishiuchi, who will represent Japan at the Venice Biennale this year, are subtle works of art that deal with the dramatic transformation in women’s attitudes taking place today.

(Text by Michiko Kasahara)

Participating Artist

Miyako Ishiuchi (1947-)

From Mother's series (c) Miyako Ishiuchi 5
Mother's #15
(74.0×108.0cm / gelatin silver print)
collection of the artist (2002)

Ishiuchi was born in Gunma prefecture and raised in Yokosuka. She studied textile design in the design department of Tama Art University, but left before obtaining a degree.

She first became known with Yokosuka Story in 1977 and Apartment the following year, then won the Fourth Kimura Ihei Prize for photography in 1979 and the Eleventh Shashin no Kai Prize (Photography Association Prize) and Fifteenth Higashigawa Prize for Japanese Artists in 1999. Her work has been internationally recognized and included in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

She has been invited to participate in a number of international exhibitions, including Japanese Art after 1945 at the Guggenheim in 1994 and Art and Environment at the National Museum of Art, Osaka in 1998. She was given a solo show Containers of Monochrome Time at the Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo in 1999.

Major works include 1·9·4·7 and Hands, Legs, Flesh, Body (photographs of the poet Ito Hiromi) in 1995, 1906 to the skin (photographs of the Buto Dancer Kazuo Ono) and Chromosome XY (close-up photographs of the male body) in 1995, Mother’s (documentary photographs of objects belonging to the artist’s mother) in 2002 and Kizuato (studies of cuts on a body) in 2004. She lives and works in Tokyo.


Michiko Kasahara (1957-)
Born in Nagano. Obtained a B.A. in Sociology at Meiji Gakuin University, Japan in 1983, and an M.A. in Photography at Columbia College, Chicago, U.S.A, in 1987. She was curator of Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography from 1989 to 2002, and since 2002 has been curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. She is also an instructor at Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics.

Selected exhibitions (curatorial works):
American Documents in the fringe, 1991
Exploring the Unknown Self - Self-portraits of Contemporary Women, 1991
Critical Landscape, 1993
Border/ Borderless, Japanese Contemporary Photography, 1993
Gender Beyond Memory, The Works of Contemporary Women Artists, 1996
Alfred Stieglitz and his Contemporaries, 1997
Love's Body ? Rethinking the Naked and the Nude in Photography, 1998
American Perspectives: Photographs from the Polaroid Collection, 2000
Kiss in the Dark: Contemporary Japanese Photography, 2001
Out of the ordinary/extraordinary: Japanese contemporary photography, Japan Foundation, 2003
Urban relationship, sustainable as a guest curator as part of “2003 City_net Asia” project, the Seoul Museum of Art, 2003
MOT annual 2005: Life Actually, the works of contemporary Japanese women, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2005

Selected Works:
The Politics Behind the Nude, Chikuma Shobo, Tokyo, 1998
Photography As a Bulwark Against Era, Seikyu-sha, Tokyo, 2002
Photographs of the war, its history and meaning; The Politics Behind the War, Seikyu-sha, Tokyo, 2004

Award of excellence for the essay "How HIV changes photography and art. Section 1 Case Study: Nicholas Nixon", Kashima Art Foundation, 2001
Catalogue Award for the essay on "American Perspectives: Photographs from the Polaroid Collection" catalogue, The Japan Association of Art Museums, 2001
The Photographic Society of Japan Award, 2002

Photo (c) Ishiuchi Miyako
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