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Visualized Dreams:
Miwa Yanagi at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin

From January 31 through March 28, 2004, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin presents the work of Miwa Yanagi, born in Kobe in 1967. It's the first time Yanagi has had a solo show in a museum setting. Her portraits of women enigmatically illuminate the daily reality of modern Japan and connect it to a surreal vision of the future.

Miwa Yanagi: Mineko, 2002,
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Miwa Yanagi

Miwa Yanagi's series stem from a precise observation of Japanese society and use as central themes roles, appearances and group affiliations, particularly in regard to the ways women live and think. The artist's research, based on memories, ideas and illusions, is reflected in several large series, of which the Guggenheim exhibition is showing Elevator Girls (1993 - 99) and My Grandmothers (from 1999 onwards), as well as a few early examples from 1994 and three very new photographic works.

Yanagi's computer-manipulated images are visual syntheses of digital photographs and computer-generated visual elements, which are turned into remarkably realistic compositions. The visions of space thus created no longer have anything in common with the reality from which they originally stem.

Elevator Girls shows identically uniformed young women posing in utopia-like enclosed spaces. The women seem anonymous and interchangeable, with no individual characteristics. The situations presented are nightmarishly enraptured, yet reflect the artist's own experiences: "After completing my university studies, I worked as a teacher and began this series during that time. Back then, I felt quite strongly that I was simply playing a role in a standardized society. I did specific work in a specific environment. I didn't actually work as an 'elevator girl,' but it seemed to me like I did. They were a symbol for me. They represented me and my situation."

Miwa Yanagi: Geisha (Akiyo, Mai, Hitomo, Noriko), 2002,
Deutsche Bank Collection © Miwa Yanagi

In My Grandmothers, Yanagi changes the starting-point for her explorations. Here, the individual, with her wishes and ideas, is at the center. Asked how they saw themselves in 50 years, women between the ages of 20 and 30 described their visions of being old. Miwa Yanagi presents these ideas as visions of a world in which people look old, yet continue to pursue youthful lifestyles. Alongside the photographs are statements the artist has created based on the answers she received, which heighten the images in a fascinating manner.

Miwa Yanagi's synthetic photographs are visualized dreams that make visible the human search for freedom and fulfillment in a society circumscribed by conventions.

The exhibition Miwa Yanagi runs from January 31 - March 28, 2004 at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. Opening hours are 11 am to 8 p.m. daily, on Thursdays until 10 p.m..

Translation: Tanya Ott