Tokyo – Born in the Japanese capital in 1967, artist Mariko Mori balances her time between London and New York. Having originally studied fashion in her native country, she moved to London in 1989 to attend the prestigious Chelsea College of Art and Design.
Her body of work, spanning over 20 years, explores universal questions at the intersection of life, death, reality and technology. She first came to prominence with her large-scale photographic self-portraits, but has since used different media including video, installations, sculpture and performance.
In an interview extracted from our book Where They Create: Japan [available here], Mori discusses how her practice changes depending on which creative hub she’s based in.
Did you always want to be an artist?
MARIKO MORI: I went to London to study fashion at the age of 21, but it happened that by mistake I enrolled for a fine art course instead.
London is where I create, New York is where my work is managed and Tokyo is where I meditate
When did you move to New York?
In 1992, and then in 2013 I moved to London. Now London is where I create, and New York is where my office is located and where my work is managed.
You have a space in Tokyo as well. What do you do there?
Tokyo is my temporary living space when I go to Japan. There is also a tea house there, which I designed. It’s where I meditate and think about my work.
How does an ordinary day begin for you?
When I am in London my day starts around 7.00, walking around the park with my dog for about an hour. Somewhere along the path, I stop for meditation. I normally arrive at my atelier at 10.00 and work until around 18.00. I will often go for dinner afterward, and then I will hold a meeting with my staff at the New York office over Skype.
You could be in Tokyo and still work internationally. Why did you decide to have your base outside of Japan?
Support towards an artist’s work is stronger in the United States and in Europe. Both my staff and production team in the United States have a deep understanding of art, which makes the creating process easier for me.
When I install my work in Japan, I can’t realise my project without the help of a Japanese purveyor and builders. Japanese people are very conscious and don’t like to take risks or do unprecedented things, but art often requires technology or craft that has not yet been applied in a certain way. In Japan, although there are master craftsmen, they are not so experimental in applying their skill to new things – while in the West, craftsmen are willing to take the challenge positively, trying new things.
In think, in general, the West has an appreciation for art and a willingness to offer support both financially and mentally. I am immensely grateful to these people.
London is a place to research and develop ideas, while New York is a place to realise them