“Yamaguchi Noriko is Under Our Skin
Emerging Japanese artist Yamaguchi Noriko gets under our skin thanks to what covers hers. Currently in her last year of an MFA program at the Kyoto City University of the Arts, this 22-year-old artist from Kobe tackles issues as diverse as technology, mythology and feminism through bodily transformation and endurance. Yamaguchi uses her body to challenge present-day social mores by quite literally camouflaging herself with materials such as red azuki beans, golden thumbtacks and silvery cell phone keypads which become a constructed second skin that acts as a meaning-laden barrier against the world beyond. The art world in Japan has already recognized Yamaguchi as an up-and-coming talent: in 2004, she was selected by famed photographer Hosoe Eikoh as a recipient of the Panel of Judges Award at the 21st-Century Asia Design Competition award held by the Kyoto University of Art and Design and again by Morimura Yasumasa as a winner of a young artists’ competition hosted by the Osaka Contemporary Art Center.
Yamaguchi’s work is awash in sexual politics due to the extreme modifications she enacts during performances or in front of the camera. In Keitai Girl (2003), the artist dons a skin-tight body suit reminiscent of metallic fish scales that is carefully crafted from cell phone keypads. Her face painted in the traditional powdery white makeup of Butoh, Yamaguchi wears large headphones and is draped from head to toe with wires seemingly ripped from a telecommunications command center, setting her adrift and alone in the ether. The suit, thanks to its digital keypads, begs to be dialed, thus showing the vulnerable position of the artist within the grasp of any number of anonymous hands that might reach out and “touch someone.” In fact, certain guests are given the telephone number of her body suit and can dial her up from their own cell phones and engage Yamaguchi in conversation during her performances. Thanks to the widespread use of cell phones, or keitai, in Japan, Yamaguchi created this suit―a full-body prosthetic that turns her into a walking and talking cellular device―to investigate the future development of the human body and its interaction with technology.
In another series, “Ogurara Hime,” or “The Princess of Ogurara” (2004), Yamaguchi covers portions of her body with red beans to visually recreate the Japanese myth of Princess Ogura who became a human garden whose body sprouted forth azuki beans. Yamaguchi uses this ancient Japanese tale as a metaphor in her visualization of the female body as a site of production on a multitude of levels. In one image, long cords of red beans sprout forth from Yamaguchi’s head and attempt to take root in the ground just below her recumbent body. Her pale white flesh and exposed breasts become fertile ground that gives rise to crops and, perhaps more likely, to male desire and sexual objectification.
With her sexually charged examinations of the human body and its potential transmutations at the hands of technology and society, Yamaguchi Noriko’s skin trade is bound to remain on the Japanese art market for some time to come.” (source: http://www.mem-inc.jp/keitaigirl/artist.htm)