The World of Momoyo Torimitsu

  • CULTURE
  • The writer of Ficciones (1944), Jorge Luis Borges, describes a perfect map which reports all details of the world and even adopts the actual size and volume of the world. This map is so perfect that it can’t be distinguished from the real thing!

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    As a result, the world is at the same time both itself and its own representation- and that is how the works of the artist Momoyo Torimitsu appear. With her art we are permanently diving in an ambiguous world where we never know whether what we see is an original or a copy. Her work blurs the boundary between fiction and reality.

    The Robot, the Dead Bird and the Alien

    Her taste for robots advances this ambiguity.
    She sets, for example, some Japanese salarymen creeping along the sidewalks of big cities like New York or Tokyo (Miyata Jiro No52, 1997). These characters are actually only robots, but can’t be immediately identified as such. A nurse follows along behind the creeping automatons. But make no mistake, the only thing necessary to provide relief here is the representation of a world injured by the uniformity of our society, epitomized by the uniform of the salaryman.

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    Another way the artist refers to the ambiguity of reality is by employing stuffed animals (Yellow room, 1995). Indeed, by using stuffed birds she mixes death and life, the birds look alive even though they are not. The chaos of the world is rectified, and the birds, forming one line, are railroaded into the service of reason. This mechanism works like a map: a map always refers to the world, (whether of nature or of chaos) in the mode of reason (including at times, however, unreasonable reason). The scale models the artist sometimes uses also function like maps in this way (Horizons, 2004).

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    In the animated work entitled Business as habitual (2013), the artist portrays a sad moment from recent Japanese history: after the tragedy of Fukushima, some representatives of the Tepco power company apologised to people affected, but in the artist’s version the representatives suddenly fly into the air. Torimitsu likens them to alien beings.

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    A Labyrinth with my Socks

    Whether with robots, stuffed, dead animal, or aliens, Torimitsu’s work focuses on borderlines, however, she just points the finger at a familiar reality and at daily life. Indeed, as familiar and strong as it may seem, reality is always a function of culture, knowledge or specific experience, and as such is not stable. Her works help us to understand that we all use different maps to conduct our lives. Our reality is as fragile as it is plural: it has the nature of a cognitive dissonance. The works of Momoyo Torimitsu hail from the “uncanny valley(*)” and call us to peer into it.

    (*)cf. The Uncanny Valley Theory by Masahiro Mori

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    Momoyo Torimitsu