Mari Katayama: Broken Heart

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Mari Katayama

Published by White Rainbow on the occasion of the exhibition Mari Katayama Broken Heart 24 January–2 March 2019

White Rainbow would like to thank the following for their invaluable contribution to the catalogue and exhibition

Artworks © Mari Katayama Texts © White Rainbow and Alice Butler Catalogue © White Rainbow, 2019 Design by Stefi Orazi Studio Print by Push

rin art association The Japan Foundation

White Rainbow staff: Keith Whittle Jamie Carter Fumiko Yamazaki Yukiko Ito White Rainbow 47 Mortimer Street London W1W 8HJ +44 (0) 20 7637 1050


Mari Katayama

White Rainbow is proud to present the first UK solo exhibition by Mari Katayama, winner of The New Photographer Award, Hishigawakawa International Festival 2019.

Takahito Harada Kazue Naka Keisuke Futakuchi Simon Baker Alice Butler Naoko Mabon Junko Takekawa Rina Nozawa James Kelly Laurence Storey Stefi Orazi

In her arresting and visceral work, Katayama’s body features prominently, surrounded by intricately arranged objects, in intimate settings or set against vast landscapes. Born with various physical developmental challenges, Katayama had both legs amputated at age nine and has since lived with prosthetics. Using her body as a living sculpture, she photographs herself among intricately embroidered, hand-sewn objects and her prosthetic legs. Investigating issues of beauty, frailty, sensuality, femininity, vulnerability and characterisation of her physicality as less-able bodied. Katayama’s artistic practice is shaped by her direct experiences of her condition and society’s obsession and anxieties about bodily appearance. The title Broken Heart a metaphor for intense emotional experiences lived and a personal narrative that unfolds through creative processes.

ISBN 978-0-9934553-9-1 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted, reproduced, transmitted or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing of the copyright holders and of the publishers. Image credits Pages 10–27 Mari Katayama, Installation view of Broken Heart at White Rainbow, London, 2019 © Mari Katayama. Courtesy White Rainbow, London and rin art association Photography: Damian Griffiths

In the early photographs I’m wearing little high heel and I have child’s feet (2011) Katayama appears in the selfcontained world of her teenage bedroom, among childhood prosthetics and handmade garments long since outgrown. Alluding to the memories of isolation she felt whilst growing-up and her ongoing state of vulnerability and separation, due to perceived differences that set her apart.

Pages 30–33 © Mari Katayama. Courtesy of rin art association


In the later self-portrait You’re mine #001 (2014), Katayama reclines against a backdrop of white fabric and cushions. Taking inspiration from art history, and the prevalence of images of the female body. The romantic cliché of the title and play on the conventional representation of the idealised female form, prompts us to consider the forces shaping ideals of physical beauty and normality, and the reality of Katayama’s own anatomy. In the related sculptural installation Dolls (2008–2019), a plaster cast of Katayama’s body is covered

in a hand-sewn patchwork of leather, a second skin. Katayama’s face replaced by the reflection of the viewer, a mirror to the historical, social, and cultural construct that is oneself. In Shell (2016) we see Katayama, standing alone with a piercing gaze directed at the viewer amidst hand-sewn mannequins, disused prosthetic legs and an array of objet d’art rich in ornamentation of her own time-consuming labour. A cocoon-like world in which the image of a fragmented body and the phenomenon of the phantom limb, is deeply sensed.

Stitching Bodies Mari Katayama’s Handiwork Alice Butler

Bystander (2016) and On the way home (2016) is a further series of striking photographs conceived by Katayama whilst artist in residence on the island of Naoshima. For these works, Katayama photographed the hands of members of a local all-female traditional puppet theatre group, printing them onto material and crafting them into a many-handed doll. Against the backdrop of a natural landscape the vastness of the sea, Katayama alludes to the mythological beauty of Venus or Aphrodite, and appears herself to be born of the sea. In her most recent photographic series Cannot turn the clock back (2017), Katayama’s conversation with the body through her art represents an even bigger turning point in her life, that of motherhood. This series of works offers a poignant reflection on the physical challenges and psychological fears Katayama faces as a mother, nurturer and protector of a young life. White Rainbow is honoured to stage the first significant survey of Mari Katayama’s work outside of Japan, and could not have done so without the care and collaboration of rin art association. Our thanks go to Takahito Harada and Kazue Naka for their tireless efforts. We are also grateful to Alice Butler for her insightful essay, and Simon Baker for his kind participation in the exhibition talk event. Finally, we thank Mari Katayama’s herself for her brave and committed works, which tirelessly challenge viewers’ perceptions of disability.


bystander #014, 2016 The sea was flat and grey like a sheet of unscratched metal. It was the calm before or after the storm when a young woman with a sharp black bob was found sprawled upon the beach on the small island of Naoshima, in the Seto Island Sea of southern Japan. Her small body appeared limp, as if the next ripple of wave could simply roll her over, like any other iridescent shell. Her expression was frozen into one of dazed and dreamy pleasure. She was wearing a cream lace slip that gave way to a dazzling structure of fabric hands, claws and stuffed tentacles, extensions of her own half-body, a textile prosthetic that transformed the fragile boundary between creature and woman. Her skin merged with the flesh tones of the fabric, the haptic materials of her sea monster, while her many hands felt the grains of the rough sand beneath her. One hand (her left) was stretched outwards apart from the rest, a signal of its difference. The young woman’s claw (two digits, not five) was a gesture of defiance and creativity. She was not stranded or shipwrecked at all, but asserting her space with her hands. Mari Katayama’s photographs invite fairy-tale narratives like these, in which the artist’s body is set amongst ominous seaside locations, or dressed-up amidst darkened bedroom scenes, conjuring the scarred fragments of childhood and adolescence. In an early photograph called I’m wearing little high heel (2011), loved dresses of polkadot, paisley and crochet hang suspended from the ceiling: the memories of moments gone etched into the warp, weft and wrinkles. Indeed, in the ‘technical jargon of sewing’, Peter Stallybrass tells us, wrinkles are called ‘memory’.1 Resting on a cushion on the floor sit a pair of white stilettoes with prosthetic feet placed inside, glamorous signs of a determined life without legs. A prosthetic leg is propped up just behind it, illustrated with colourful patterns and draped in beads, a memento of teenage-tattooed rebellion. Stacks of boxes covered in cut-and-paste collages tease at the unknown stories of childhood that must be contained within them.

that is deformed, but transforms, the ways we think about disability, about the multiple ways bodies can look, perform, feel and behave. Stitch means to pierce and to mend, and Katayama’s sewn storytelling powerfully encapsulates both.

But while she may sprinkle the relics of childhood on her photographic scenes—like a witch dusting gold in a fairytale—Katayama is a more potent, less passive, type of heroine than Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. Katayama’s two-digit claw is always pointing, grabbing, tugging, stitching, touching, and gesturing, literally and metaphorically, with intent, to change the narratives that cling to the disabled body. As she powerfully shows us in the self-portrait You’re mine #001 (2014), in which the artist strikes an Olympia-esque pose while sheathed in a nudelace leotard and stockings that blur the line between fetish and prosthetic, Katayama was born with tibial hemimelia, an extremely rare condition that prevents bones in the lower legs from fully developing, often leaving them foreshortened. For Katayama, the condition also caused other deformities, including club feet and a cleft left hand. This is her crab pincer: the tool through which she attacks and defends: sculpting and sewing an alternative narrative.

It begins with a needle and thread. It begins with her pincer, the hand through which she fuses together bodily fragments, with looping actions of repair. Her stitches don’t ‘heal’ the body into a normative state, but rather bear the scars and fragments of crip resistance—akin to what the queer theorist Eve Kosofksy Sedgwick called in her own exploration of illness, A Dialogue on Love (1999), the act of ‘unmaking my mistake’.3 When I look closer at bystander (2016), I find within the abstract folds of fabric printed traces of women’s hands; later learn they belong to the members of an all-female traditional puppet theatre group from Naoshima. The dolls the women make don’t have legs, and so just like their puppeteers, and the artist that’s mythologised them as a multi-armed sea creature, these marionettes express themselves with their upper limbs and digits (two or five).

Katayama was only nine-years-old when she decided to have her lower legs amputated. Before this she had to wear awkward shoes that buckled to her legs with braces, denying her the freedom and pleasure of wearing what she wished to. These pale pink boots of worn soles and frayed leather straps can be found hidden within the quilted and collaged scene of the sculptural installation Dolls and Boxes (2018): a trace of her buckled childhood body. Nestled next to those ‘pre-amputation’ boots are the colourful prosthetic legs displaying flowers and crabs that the artist has decorated and worn since. Objects such as these hint at the lived experience of disability, through which the artist challenges viewers’ perceptions of bodies that do not meet normative designations of health. In often surreal and ornamental self-portraits, Katayama unsettles the stigma that has attached itself to the disabled body by imagining a spectacular, alternative, dressed-up future. From her painted legs, to her handmade clothes, to her short nude stockings, to her high-heeled shoes with a prosthetic attachment, Katayama performs the fluidity of the ‘crip body’ through clothes, adornment, perversion and fantasy. (I am using ‘crip’ intentionally here, following Alison Kafer’s position that the term is loaded with the desire ‘to shake things up, to jolt people out of their everyday understandings of bodies and minds, of normalcy and deviance’.2) Katayama is stitching a different story, one

Katayama’s work is reminiscent of the stuffed and abject fabric forms that other feminist artists have employed in their work, from Sarah Lucas’s limp bodies to Senga Nengudi’s stretched physical forms. All three artists take the misogynistic stereotype that women are defined by touch, the basest of senses, and give it a new meaning. And in Katayama’s case, her ‘feminine touch’ is spiked by her haptic desire to sculpt different, nonconforming bodies and bodily relations. The hands that feature in her work— fingernails often painted red, or clutching a sewn heart of splayed, broken digits, as in cannot turn the clock back #009 (2017)—gesture towards the conversation that Katayama enacts between practice and politics in her work. The ‘handiwork’ (or working hand) that stitches the mannequins, garments, puppetry, and embroidered hearts in her photographs and sculptures, becomes the haptic labour that supports her vital ‘restitching’ of the crip body.


Dolls, 2008–2019 She was a puppet made out of plaster, then covered in leather, the same size as the woman that made her, a patchwork of peach, tan and stone pieces, held together

by two different threads, one white and the other muddy brown, all stitched by the artist’s hand. She was a body torn between fragmentation and repair, her skin in sutured pieces, and her head decapitated, replaced with a shiny dark brown wig, dressing room mirror and the bright lights of stardom. She was always inviting the gaze of those that came upon her. She was always shaking things up. Mirror, mirror on the wall; who is the fairest of them all? Not Snow White, but a body less known, a body unsewn. Or in fragments. This doll with a claw hand could come alive in an instant. Alice Butler is a writer and academic based in London, UK. She is currently Writer in Residence at the Freud Museum, London.

Broken Heart

1 Peter Stallybrass, ‘Worn Worlds: Clothing, Mourning and the Life of Things’ in Cultural Memory and the Construction of Identity, ed. Dan Ben-Amos and Liliane Weissberg (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1999), 28. 2 Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2013), 15. 3 Eve Kosofksy Sedgwick, ‘A Dialogue on Love’, Critical Inquiry 24:2 (Winter 1998): 631. This is an extract. Beacon Press published the full book in 1999.



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Mari Katayama in conversation with Simon Baker

Thursday 24 January 2019, Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, London When we were talking earlier today I was asking Mari about how she started her life as an artist, and how she became the artist that she is today. Maybe you’d like to start by telling us something about how you became an artist and your background. SIMON BAKER

MARI KATAYAMA I’m just going to explain my childhood. When you ask me about how I became an artist, as an occupation I would say I started making artworks when I graduated university, but even before that I was making things, so I say I was as artist for as long as I can remember.

The photo on the screen is one from my childhood. At that time I still had legs and I was using At the age of 4 (1991) orthoses. I couldn’t really wear normal children’s clothes, so my mother and grandmother used to sew my clothes for me. There was an assortment of sewing machines and scissors, and there were many needles, fabrics and beads. Before I started writing letters in pencil I had already started sewing with needles and thread. Unfortunately, I can’t really make clothes like my mother in terms of tailoring, but that kind of experimentation influenced my art making. 28/29

One of the biggest shock opportunities to become an artist came when I was asked to be a model for a fashion show in high school. At that time social media had become popular. There wasn’t any Facebook or Twitter, but there was MySpace and what is called Mixi in Japan. Those people who could make websites uploaded their photos there. When I was fifteen years old I started learning how to use html and started programming. So I uploaded my photos and texts to my website. One of the stylists who saw my photos asked me to do modelling for his fashion show. I had started painting my prostheses for the first time and he saw my illustration on the website. He proposed painting the prosthesis with something like an English fairy. I used national flowers as well. At that time I was studying in a commercial high school so there wasn’t any art class. It was a vocational school so we were studying accounting, programming and computers. It’s very Japanese thinking but I wanted to become a civil servant. I wanted to have a stable job and a pension. It was advice from my mother — she used to tell me that I couldn’t physically use my body to earn money so I needed to get some skills to find a job. That’s why I decided to

go to this school. But in order to find a job I had to write an essay. I had to present myself in an essay, but I couldn’t really write anything and so I just handed in the paper empty. My teacher told me that I wouldn’t be able to get credit and I wouldn’t be able to graduate.

over and over, but it wasn’t like I could see Azumaya san every day, so I started taking photos of these objects and uploaded them to social media. People were not quite sure of the object’s importance, so I wondered — maybe if I wear them or take more explanatory photos, people will understand.

That same teacher did oil painting as a hobby. He had seen my prostheses and my paintings, so he asked me to write some text about that. By chance there was an application for an art competition that was happening at that time and he submitted my text to the art competition.

I didn’t really have awareness that I was taking self-portraits at the time; it was more like I was managing myself. I wanted to take photos that made my objects really lively and vivid. At that time I think my sister was about four years old. I made her take about two hundred photos of myself and I selected some of them.

I ended up getting an award in the competition. The judge told me that I am an artist from today and I have to bear responsibility for what I create from now on. I was always painting or sewing or making something, but that was the first time the things I was making were recognised as artworks. I had My legs, 2012 been wondering what I was making, but the judge Takashi Azumaya had told me that I was an artist. I was feeling guilty about making things that were not really beneficial to finding a job, but I was really happy when he told me that. I started making more and more artworks, which I would pack up and take from Gunma to Tokyo two hours away to show to Azumaya san. I repeated this procedure

I uploaded the photos online and people started to notice my not very normal body. Some people asked me if it was possible to take photos of myself. Afterwards they got in touch and I started doing modelling, working on stage and working in fashion as well. While I was modelling I used to bring the things I had made and ask the professional photographers to take photos of them because I saw the limitation of my sister taking photos for me. These photographers are really professional, but the main thing was to take pictures of my body, my self. It’s my objects, my things in the photos, but then these images became their works somehow, and I felt that was a bit strange.

Because I had won the award I managed to get into Art University at that time. When I graduated from the art school I was accepted by an art post-grad school in Tokyo. I moved from Gunma where I’m from to Tokyo and I made more friends, started doing more modelling. People were interested in taking photos of my body, and I started feeling very strange about that too. My professor at that time, Motohiko Odani, who is an artist as well, recommended that

about (I’m wearing little high heel, 2011), and whether you had already planned the whole scene. We’re seeing a lot of different things that you made, things that you’ve sewn, objects you’ve created. Is this all one plan or did it evolve? MK I had a sketch. After doing the sketch I started putting in loads of objects that I had already made, and then I would put myself in there somewhere. From three or four meters I took the photos in the six

I’m wearing little high heel, 2011

I take my own photos. That’s how I started studying photography. It was a two-year masters degree, and I started learning how to insert films and how to deal with negatives. You need to graduate by making artworks, and that became my graduation show. I thought because I am quite a serious person, ‘Ok I have to make some photos to graduate from my degree!’ So I wanted to ask you to say a little bit about the way that this picture came SB

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tatami mat room that I was living in at the time. I set up the camera, decided the position. Probably about a hundred or two hundred times I positioned, then came back and looked at the frame, then adjusted because this object isn’t inside, or this isn’t inside. What I ended up with was different from the sketch. Maybe you can also say a little bit about the way you’re using yourself in the work. Perhaps this is to do with modelling as well SB

but it seems like it’s not really a selfportrait, but it’s more like a performance or a different character that you’re making. At the same time, it’s very personal. It’s your room; it’s your space, its very intimate. There is a story to this photo actually. When you’re a small child you kind of imitate your mother, you want to be like your mother, you have longings for your mother. You want to try mum’s lipsticks or you want to wear mum’s high heels by the door. MK

So there’s this kind of longing for your mother and I wanted to wear heels. I used to sing to earn money. Once while I was singing I was told by one of the customers that a woman who couldn’t wear heels isn’t really a woman. At that time I was like ok I’m gonna wear heels no matter what this person says. So that’s how I started this high heel project. In terms of social work Japan is quite privileged, but there’s this kind of social suppression when it comes to the desire for wanting to be fashionable. Its not like everyone wants to wear high heels, but if there was a jacket for people whose body is paralysed, that would be nice, and if there was underwear that was easy to take off it would be easier for them to go to toilet and that would be an opportunity for those people to start their rehabilitation. This notion of wanting to be fashionable is not really accepted in the medical world in Japan. So I thought it would be nice for everyone to share this notion and that that is how I started the high heel project. Thanks to the high heels now I’m two meters tall on the stage when I sing, and because of that now I feel like I’ve overpowered the customer who told me that I wasn’t really a woman because I didn’t wear high heels. For me the high heels are kind of a symbol to fight.

SB At that time you can already see a really impressive sense of making a picture, building a picture. What can you say about artists or photographers who you were interested in or who had inspired you?

Its kind of hard to say, at that time, I needed to make photos to graduate. I needed to show the result of dealing with films and taking photos. It was really just to graduate and I didn’t really have the time to think about references to other artists. MK

for help. I took photos of the hands of local people from Naoshima, printed them on fabric and made these objects. I used to make objects and patchworks using my own body in my own house, but in this one I used or borrowed other people’s bodies and unified them with my own body. It was a really life-changing experience for me. SB I was so enjoying listening… but I would like to ask one last question. You just mentioned this shift in your work from

these days, and I always wonder when I will stop taking self-portraits. As I came outside I became interested in things that exist outside, like chairs, roads, or kinds of brickwork. All these things were handiwork made by humans. I can’t really beat them. My focus was on objects in my room, but now my focus is more on what’s outside. Once I had experienced that I can’t really go back to making the really intricate objects I used to make.

I always used to like paintings. As I said I used to do sketches to make photos. When I was a child I used to love manga and Gustav Klimt too. One thing that might not be obvious to everyone here is exactly how much of every single thing in the photograph you’ve made. You’ve talked about painting and about drawing, but there are many different kinds of object making in the work. Rather than an artist who has a huge studio with lots of assistants to build the installation, every single thing is made or sewn by you. Can you explain to the audience a little bit about those parts of your practice? SB

MK So my style has always been the same. There are three things: I always include myself, and natural light, and always take photos in my home. That has never changed. So first of all I make these objects, and then I take photos of the objects. Sometimes I don’t take photos of them. Sometimes I don’t really take a self-portrait. The experience of the environment around me influences me. When I go outside I go through experiences, and these experiences influence all my works. These works teach me as well. I was working on a project for Setouchi triennale in Naoshima, which is a southern island in Japan. I was back and forth between Gunma and Naoshima and the project was quite hard. Physically I felt some limitations, so I decided to ask

bystander #001, 2016

being in your room, inside, to being outside and making work in the landscape. I wonder what it means for you to keep making self-portraits, but in the landscape? In your room it seems more obvious to make a self-portrait, but outside it’s quite an interesting difference. It’s really hard to phrase the answer to this question, but it feels like one day I will disappear. I take self-portraits outside MK


Simon Baker is Director of theMaison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. Arranged In collaboration with The Japan Foundation.

Mari Katayama

Solo Exhibitions

Born 1987, Saitama, Japan. Lives and Works in Gunma, Japan

2019 Broken Heart, White Rainbow, London, UK 2017 19872017, Gallery Gateaux Festa Harada, Gunma, Japan On the Way Home, the Museum of Modern Art, Gunma 2016 Self-portrait and object, Renaiss Hall, Okayama Artist in Rokku vol.3 Mari Katayama / bystander, Miyaura Gallery Rokku, Naoshima, Japan (in conjunction with the Setouchi Triennale 2016)

2016 DAEGU PHOTO BIENNALE 2016 | Me in the Photography, Daegu Culture & Arts Centre, Tegu, Korea Roppongi Crossing – My body, your voice, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan 2015

現代幽霊画, TAV Gallery, Tokyo,


2013 L’Expérience Japonaise, Théâtre National de Marseille La Criée, Marseilles, France Aichi Triennale 2013, Nayabashi, Aichi, Japan

Shadow Puppet – 3331 ART FAIR recommended artists, 3331 gallery, Tokyo, Japan

KISS THE HEART#2, Isetan Shinjuku department store window display, Tokyo, Japan

2015 25 days in tatsumachi studio, Robson Coffee (Arts Maebashi), Gunma, Japan

2012 Human Library, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan

2014 You’re mine, Traumaris | Space, Tokyo, Japan Mari Katayama, Kitchen Gallery, Paris, France 2009 Mari Katayama, Gallery J, Gunma, Japan 2008 Mari Katayama, Slow Time, Gunma, Japan Group Exhibitions 2019 May You Live In Interesting Times Venice Biennale 2018 Unexpected Encounter, Arts Maebashi, Gunma, Japan Body Politics: What Defines the Body?, KANA KAWANISHI PHOTOGRAPHY, Tokyo , Japan How Many Miles to Babylon?, MIYAKO YOSHINAGA, New York City, USA

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Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der Bildende Künste, Vienna, Austria

2017 Photographs of innocence and of experience—Contemporary Japanese Photography vol. 14, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan Signal flare for our future, Art Museum and Library, Ota, Gunma, Japan Pro(s)thesis & Posthuman Complicities/xhibit,

and freedom 2 | MEGANE + Mari Katayama, Traumaris | Space, Tokyo, Japan Shibukaru sai, PARCO, Tokyo, Japan Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2012, Gyoko-dori Underground Gallery, Tokyo, Japan Tokyo University of the Arts Graduation Work Exhibition, BankART Studio NYK, Kanagawa, Japan 2011 CunCun, Gallery Conceal Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan 2010 identity, body it. –curated by Takashi Azumaya–, NCA, Tokyo, Japan 2009 First EXPO ART 1st JAPAN, Oizumimachi Bunkamura, Gunma, Japan 2008 Wall paintings, Social Welfare Service Corporation Suido-sya, Gunma, Japan Art MAGMA, Asaya department store, Gunma, Japan 2006 The 58th Nihon Independent Exhibition, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

2005 Gunma Biennale for Young Artists ’05, The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma, Japan Awards 2019 The New Photographer Award, Hishigawakawa International Festival 2019 2015 Koichi Watari Prize, Mitsuhiro Yoshitomo Prize, 3331 Art Fair 2015 2012 Grand Prize, Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2012 2005 Encouragement Prize, The 8th Gunma Biennale for Young Artists ’05 Public Collections GATEAU FESTA HARADA (Gunma, Japan); La Maison Rouge (Paris, France); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan; Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan); Arts Maebashi (Gunma, Japan)

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