Yanagi Miwa

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beauty, body, imagination
Visual Arts (photography, video art)
Asia, Eastern
created on:
July 21, 2003
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Please note: This page has not been updated since November 2, 2005. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Yanagi Miwa
Yanagi Miwa. (PR Photo)


Japanese female dreams of the future

Yanagi Miwa is a young Japanese photographer and video artist, portraying the life of women in modern changing Japan. Her works manifests the circumstances of contemporary Japanese society where she was born and raised.
The Japanese visual artist Yanagi Miwa today appears as an artist developing a visionary world to do with present-day and future society, where day-to-day realities and certain types of behaviour are defined and altered mainly in relation to increasingly specialized economic and consumer parameters. What Yanagi captures in her computer-composed photographs is an alluring and seductive nightmare of consumer society.

With the exhibition ´The Elevator Girls series´ the young Japanese photographer shows a vision that is at at the same time anticipated and present, developing themes involving every day life, personal identity, employment, the architecture of public places, and the like.

The new series ´My Grandmothers´ is a transposition by the artist of the vision of girls. Yanagi has actually produced this series using interviews with girls aged between about 14 and 20. She asks them to imagine what they´ll be or what they dream of being in 50 years´ time. If the answer interests and stirs her, she pictorializes the fantasy, and turns it into a photographic work.

At the very root of the work, as is always the case with Yanagi, there´s a drawing, a preliminary study. The photographic works are then produced with a maximum concern for technical perfection. The photos in the My Grandmothers series call for shots taken in various parts of the world, followed by lengthy computer sessions, dealing, for example, with ageing the face of the girl who repeatedly appears in the work. Each vision interpreted and created by the artist in the My Grandmothers series is obviously very different from the others, ranging from a poetic, sad, and pessimistic vision to a very funny one...

Mie, for example (120 x 160 cm), a 19-year-old girl, imagined that, in 50 years´ time, she would be on her own, gazing at an unlived-in landscape, partly awash with water, thinking about the goings-on that had brought the world to this apocalyptic pretty pass...

Yuka (160 x 160 cm) dreams of living, once she´s 70, on the west coast of the United States, with not a care in the world, and having a young playboy as her lover. The words of the young woman whose dream has been "imaged" by Miwa Yanagi are always shown together with the work.


Press Release

Exhibition from 4 March to 22 April 2000

After producing performances dealing with the consumer world and a particular kind of women´s working world in Japan -- lift attendants in large stores, hostesses, and guides, all requiring a uniform and a commercial attitude devoid of any personal or individual context --, Miwa Yanagi embarked in 1993 on her current photographic work, which involves working the photos used by computer.

From the very outset of her career (1992-1993), Miwa Yanagi aroused not only keen interest both in Japan, and subsequently abroad, but also plenty of criticism, too, for her pictures indirectly express a point of view and an opinion about the professional situation of women in Japan, as well as the consumer world and the country´s never-ending hankering after the western urban world.

In the world that Miwa Yanagi shows us, the spaces she creates -- department stores, underground urban areas -- are at once familiar and unreal, strange and enclosed, suggesting a kind of science-fiction.

In it, the women all wear a calm, unruffled expression; they are part and parcel of the place where they happen to be. They help people coming from another reality to move into their world. More recently, Miwa Yanagi has embraced video, with an impressive work in which uniformed women affect their surroundings with a slight movement of the hand.
Author: Karin Bergquist


Born in Kobe City.
Completed the postgraduated course of Kyoto University of Fine Art.

Solo Exhibitions

2005 The Incredible Tale of the Innocent Old Lady and the Heartless Young Girl (Hara museum Tokyo)
2004 Darkness of Girlhood and Lightness Aging (Marugame Genichiro-lnokuma Museumof Contemporary Art)
2004 MIWA YANAGI (Guggenheim Museum Berlin )
2003 Granddaughters (Lille2004 France)
Granddaughters (Shiseido Gallery Tokyo)

Group Exhibitions

2005 Moscow International Festival
2003 The American Effect (Whitney Museum of American Art New York)
The history of Japanese photography (Museum of Fine Arts Houston)
2002 Sydney Biennial
2001 Yokohama Triennale


Kagome Kagome

Film / TV,
This video was shown at the Centre Georges Pompidou for the Elysian Fields exhibition from May 23th to July 24th 2000.


Awarded a diploma in 1991 of the University of Kyoto´s fine art (3rd cycle).


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)


Interview with Yanagi

Yanagi Miwa´s official website