This exhibition features Kumano, an early video work by internationally renowned Japanese artist Mariko Mori (born 1967, Japan), and a recent addition to Asia Society Museum's Contemporary Art Collection. The work represents Mori's consistent interest in belief systems, including Shintoism, Japan's indigenous religion, and Buddhism, its adopted religion. The title also refers to Kumano, visited by pilgrims for centuries as one of the most sacred sites in western Japan. The work was inspired by Mori's own visit to the site, and the artist appears in the film as three different characters: a mysterious fairy; a shaman; and a floating angel. These are each iconic representations of other-worldly beings, and for the artist they also signify the past, the present, and the future respectively. In this context, summoned from different temporal planes, they are depicted coexisting in a single realm. Mori's focus on the use of video, as exemplified in Kumano, is a reflection of her desire to merge art and technology, and to incorporate the aspect of time into her visual expression.
Curator Miwako Tezuka has selected works from Asia Society's Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection that will be shown alongside the installation of Kumano. The works are religious icons from various parts of Asia. Elegantly depicted in a variety of styles and materials, these images of gods and goddesses testify to the mutability of religious icons over space and time. Like Mori's video, they attest to the perseverance of human faith and the constantly changing but lasting tradition of visualizing and aspiring toward a higher consciousness.