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Miwa YANAGI: {my grandmothers}
Written by Takeshi HIRATA   
Published: March 26 2009

     We share much time with our mothers and fathers, and this provides us with many memories and experiences. However, we share little or no time with our "grandmothers" until they approach the end of their lives. The time they have lived is much longer than us due to the length of time between our respective births.
     We and they are related by blood despite this distance. That produces intimacy in the relationship with them. "Grandmothers" exist as a model to evoke our past, to imagine our future or old age. An exhibition with the theme of our grandmothers is being held at Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography from March 7, 2009 to May 10, 2009, entitled "Miwa Yanagi: my grandmothers".

fig. 1 "MIE" (2000);  collection of Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, copyright © Yanagi Miwa, courtesy of Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

fig. 2 "MIKA" (2001); artist's collection, copyright © Yanagi Miwa

fig. 3 "MINAMI" (2000); artist's collection, copyright © Yanagi Miwa

     I described how "grandmothers" have lived in a time preceding our own. However, the grandmothers we see in this exhibition are slightly different from those whom we know; they are "future" grandmothers. "My grandmothers" can be described as the lifework of Miwa Yanagi in which she has created photo artworks of female models from teenagers to people in their forties (*1), imagining, after interviewing them, how they will look in fifty years. In this exhibition, twenty-six artworks (which means twenty-six (pairs of) "grandmothers") are displayed.

     In order to visualize grandmothers of the future who do not yet exist, Yanagi has recruited models from the general public, sometimes interviewing them, and has deliberately created the "grandmothers" she imagined, as well as their surroundings such as settings and the objects around them. She has done this utilizing special makeup and computer graphics. We may easily "imagine" tomorrow or one year later, but can you imagine yourself in fifty years? Fifty years is so far ahead that it is difficult to foresee how we will look. All we can do is to "create" it. This is the power of the "my grandmothers" series; to imagine and give shape to the invisible "future" in front of us. It contains elements such as "story" and "fable", and shows us the future beyond human understanding. However, this series is not science fiction. The "my grandmothers" series has elements of fantasy but connects to our life because "grandmothers" are envisioned from the point of the "present".

     The future of the "my grandmothers" is not bright, but neither is it dark. The imagination of "grandmothers" and the future world depends on the models. In "MIE" (2000), the grandmother lives in a terminal world that has vanished below the water, "MIKA" (2001) shows the end of the world; the grandmother has lived several decades on the island where she was washed up. In "YUKA", she has left a peaceful life in a hot-spring town, gone to the United States, met a young boyfriend and started to travel across the United States. In "MINAMI" (2000), the grandmother is a company president who runs an amusement park, and is wearing an animal suit. There are silent artworks such as "MITSUE" (2009) in which the grandmother lies down as if integrated with dead leaves and moss, and "TSUMUGI" (2007) where she plays a Japanese harp alone in the woods. Some artworks visualize a concrete career and a future image, others show an abstract future. We can take them as a catalogue of various future images.

     The "my grandmothers" series shows the future, and we cannot find the "past". However, by showing the future, the series make us strongly aware of the "present" in which we deliberate on our future or our past life and on what might have happened to us.

     These are living "grandmothers". We will notice that those who are to be "grandmothers" are ourselves. "My grandmothers" shows the future blueprint for us. Certainly, we might feel a strong sense of fantasy in the future of the "grandmothers". A world created by special makeup and computer graphics might be considered excessively artificial. With the terminal worldview, there are no diseases, no death, no males, no family, no actual old age we will face. However, in "my grandmothers" we find an intention to trust in the power of life, and a hope that the future is bright and that no-one lives a stereotyped existence. There is the future starting from the imagination, a world created based on trust in the future. This is because to become a "grandmother" is to "live the future".
(Translated by Chisato Kushida)

In fact, male models are included in three artworks: "ESTELLE", "RYUEN", "ERIKO".

Related Exhibition

"Miwa Yanagi: {my grandmothers}"
07/Mar/2009 - 10/May/2009
Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

Last Updated on November 01 2015

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