Mariko Mori’s Pureland

Mariko Mori’s Pureland

What we notice at first in this series is the color and the serene image. The pink dominates and small cartoon figurines float around the woman. The landscape seems unreal and tranquil. The image reminds us of scenery as it appears in Japanese manga and anime. Along with its strong reference to Japanese visual culture, Pureland references Western popular culture such as Hollywood films, as well as landscape painting traditions. draws from both Japanese and Western visual culture.

The sky and water in Pureland have a flatness like that of a computer screen. The widened perspective of Pureland evokes the Japanese concept of sunyata, which can be translated as emptiness. Mori’s lack of depth perspective is disorientating. Even though the image appears tranquil and sweet there is not a lot to keep the viewer engaged. The “flatness” relates to the Japanese ukiyo-e prints from the Edo period. Ukiyo-e originates from a Buddhist concept meaning the “floating world”. In the Edo period the word was associated with woodblock prints. Manga (Japanese graphic novels) and anime (Japanese animated films or television series) can be related back to Hokusai’s range of woodblock prints entitled Manga.  Woodblock prints from the Edo period are very close in style to contemporary manga and anime in the use of visual elements such as dark outlines and flatness of representation.

In the unifying glow of Pureland all differences are airbrushed into an uneasy whole. In this way this work mirrors the easily made, disposable Japanese culture–Japan has become both what the West imagines it to be and what it “remembers” to be its national identity.

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