Yasumasa Morimura's Futago: An Exit and Re-entrance into the Canon of Art History

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Wood, Anna
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Scholarship Sewanee 2023 , University of the South , Asian art , Art history , Gender binary , Gender nonconforming , Racial fetishization , Gender and race , Art canon
Yasumasa Morimura (b. 1951) is a Japanese artist who challenges the dominant paradigm of Euro- American artworks. His artworks express his subjective feelings of being stuck inside the realm of Japanese art history within the canon of Eurocentric art historical ideologies. He focuses his works primarily in the medium of photography in a hybrid format with oil paint on his physical body, where he acknowledges the difficulties of sexuality, gender, and culture. The image that this paper focuses on is Portrait (Futago, “Twins”), 1988, photograph. This photograph is a recreation of Manet’s Olympia, where Morimura questions the racial and gender roles in the original painting and challenges the ideas of the male versus female gaze. In the production of this artwork, Morimura tried to Orientalize ideas within “Western” Art. How is the fame of this work of art re-Orientalized the artist himself? This paper focus on the stereotypes of the gender binary and the racial fetishism represented in the instance of the maid in the background. This paper answers the following questions: How does Yasumasa Morimura challenge the traditional ideas of the art historical colonist regime through the representation of the feminine? How have these ideas evolved throughout art history? The artist plays the role of both the maid and the poser in the image, expressing the fluidity of his own gender. Japan’s role within the world during this period, called The Lost Decade, was inherently suffering from economic and social difficulties.As a result of this, the productions in visual culture directly referenced the inferiority the Japanese were experiencing compared to the Euro-American West. This paper will argue that through Morimura’s efforts to challenge the Western art historical ‘canon’ by appropriating a canonical image and the fame that arose from the production of the image, he reinserted himself into the canon from which he originally wished to break free from. This illustrates the circular logic through Morimura falling victim to the canon despite his efforts to dispute it through gendered binaries, race, and appropriation