Born in Kobe (Japan), 1967
Lives & works in Kioto (Japan)

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Miwa Yanagi was born in Kobe, Japan in 1967 and she actually lives in Kyoto. This Japanese artist was selected as Deutsche Bank?s 2004 Artist of the Business Year, a prestigious award previously obtained by Günter Förg, Kara Walker, and Richard Artschwager.

Ms. Yanagi explores the mythology and iconography surrounding the portrayal of women. Through her Japanese eyes, she cleverly scrutinizes this portrayal by using a seductive language with a slightly Western twist. In her personal collages of fantasy and reality, she makes references to fairy tales, film noir, and literature. In doing so, she questions the role of women in society and the perception of those roles in our collective memories.

In Girls in Her Sand (2004), Ms. Yanagi creates theatrical sets in which she explores the different layers of reality through a personal world of fantasy and myth. The video is projected in a black tent, creating an isolated space where the story opens with a couple of hands pulling back the virtual curtains on the screen. We watch the scenes unfold through this window, emphasizing the idea of a linear narrative. In a desert landscape, a figure comes to us covered in what appears to be a black robe. As the mysterious form approaches, it turns out to be the same black structure covering us, like a shelter from our personal nightmares. The character leaves, and the curtains close. When they open again, two girls are playing in the sand, sitting down making a castle. Something seems strange about their faces. The compelling image is alluring and disturbing at the same time. As they approach our window screen, we discover their sinister ugly faces, masks of horror. The little girls became the witches from our childhood tales. Was their innocence originally plagued with evil? There is a certain power in the repugnancy of the images. In the end, those hybrids between childhood and grotesque dash away. The tale became the nightmare.

Curiously embedded into the end of one of the walls, is Kagome Kagome(1999), a disturbing, mechanical narrative through which Yanagi challenges traditional perceptions of women's roles. An empty corridor lined with green doors is the stage. Women appear into the scene and disappear through the doors. More women come out of the doors and stand outside, making welcoming gestures, bending down incessantly. They are all dressed in white uniforms, like an army of attractive robots. This whiteness emphasizes the aseptic space. Additional women enter and exchange repetitive gestures of greetings with the ones who are waiting outside. With this ritual complete, the women leave the scene again, and only two of them stay in the lintel of the door. Their images freeze while a glass covers them like a showcase, transforming them into mannequins. More women again come into the scene and stare at the showcases. The lights brighten, and some women stop to speak to with each other. A conveyor belt appears in the middle of the corridor where the same kind of women advance with suitcases. The modification of the space occurs continuously and very subtly. This tableau of transformation and perpetual metamorphosis occurs without conscious perception. The camera advances now into the empty space, and the women start appearing in the scene again, until they continue disappearing, in a way of a Kafkaesque process.
Blanca de la Torre