Art & Photography / Culture Talks

Yuko Mohri's Imaginative Interpretations of Leaky Tokyo

A brilliant new exhibition celebrating an inability to retain water opens at London's White Rainbow Gallery this week

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Yuko Mohri Moré moré tokyo [leaky Tokyo]Courtesy the artist and White Rainbow, London. Photography by Damian Griffiths

Japanese artist Yuko Mohri makes dynamic installations that query perceived boundaries between the manmade and organic through the use of every day objects and invisible forces, both mechanical and natural. Her latest show, Moré Moré (Leaky), which opens at the White Rainbow today, features aquatic ecosystems as well as photographs of the makeshift, subway leak repairs in Japan that inspired this ongoing series. Mohri has been shooting these instances of accidental bricolage as fieldwork since 2009, and previously released two such photographic volumes. The juxtaposition of the still images and the wooden frames bearing enclosed kinetic waterways and site-specific objects invites the viewer to consider the symbiotic relationships between nature and technology, aesthetics and functionality.

Mohri, who previously worked as a carpenter, initially focused on sound art before movement increasingly captured her imagination, and the intricate balance within Moré Moré’s ecosystems discretely flaunt her broad skillset. The first structural piece in this series was created primarily via experimentation, at the Nissan Art Award in Japan (2015), and secured her the Grand Prix, which led to a residency at Camden Arts Centre. More recently, she made her New York solo debut at Jane Lombard Gallery with Form of the Daze, and she is also currently showing at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

On why she chose to document subway leak repairs... 
“I started collecting the images as a hobby, having noticed this phenomena. They are completely artificial, but they appear and disappear as underground waterways shift and the station workers can’t predict when leaks will happen, so they fix them in the easy, bricolage way. As they are moving, I started to feel that they were like organic things. Then around the Fukushima disaster, there were lots of earthquakes which effected the water around every station. After that I decided to use this phenomena as inspiration for my project.”

On the coming together of the natural and unnatural...
“In a botanical garden, where they use plants, trees and walls in completely different formulations. They have to make different systems for the plants to survive, altering humidity, for example, so it’s actually artificial, but they are making ecosystems. And this affected my thinking for this piece. I’m making circulatory systems, which are artificial ecosystems that also look like an organic things.”

On developing ecosystems from the images... 
“As one example, two years ago, I held a workshop for visitors who were not artists. I set up the leaking water scenario and provided plastic objects such as bottles and sheets, and then I asked them to fix the situation with the materials. After a few hours they had created such a beautiful installation. I was amazed. They were not artists, but I perceived the creativity of humans and also considered how in emergency situations people make things as they have to. This linked back to the Fukushima catastrophe, too. We had so many disasters during that time. I thought what can I do? I have no idea about these huge issues, but through small creations, like the leaky situation, maybe I can start something.”

On crafting individual installations...
“In this specific situation, I collected objects here, and had also brought some from Japan, and of course, I provided the leaky situation for myself, and then I tried to fix it through improvisation, without plans or drawings. I just worked out how to make circulatory systems, one per frame. Of course, I am an artist, so I want to position the objects in a nice way, but under the leaky scenario, I have to change certain ideas as it’s not possible to control the physics of water, its pressure. And this improvisatory period is also a happening, which I really wanted to occur during my installation, having been influenced by improvisational and experimental artists and musicians.”

On the inspiration behind the boot sculpture... 
“When I was creating this piece, I thought of the many kinds of pressure within the water. It was a difficult experience [trying to control it] and so I wanted to make a sculpture out of it. It’s like throwing the boot at the wall with that force, although I actually used a technique, but I want to develop more sculptures within this project too.”

Moré Moré (Leaky) by Yuko Mohri is on until March 11, 2017, at White Rainbow, London. 

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