When the rush of selfies drives the world into a state of frenzy, it would be of interest to brush up the memory to relook at the act of taking one’s own photograph when it was a genre formally termed self-portraiture art. The exhibition My Self-Portraits as a Theater of Labyrinths at Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art surveys the 35-year career of Yasumasa Morimura. The leading contemporary photographer of Japan has been creating self-portraits of himself as the protagonists culled out of masterpieces, famous historical figures, and movie actresses. The personal and world history intersect in the works of Morimura when he portrays himself as a personification of a multiplicity of individual identities. The concerns of gender and race as the monolithic subjects devoid of change are questioned to open the possibility of their subversions.
In an interview with STIR, Morimura enumerates on his experience about the photographed self-portraits in the guise of others, “Whenever I stand in front of a classical portrait painting (even if it is a print in a book of paintings), to me there is always a sense that the painting is a mirror. This feeling is especially apparent when the painting is a self-portrait of the artist. When looking at the self-portraits of Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt van Rijn and Frida Kahlo, for example, I gradually start to feel that the depicted figure is a self-portrait of myself, the very person looking at the painting. I come to the sense that I, the person standing before the ‘painting as a mirror,’ am the same as the figure reflected in the ‘painting as a mirror’ (that is, the figure portrayed in the painting). At the same time, I also experience the sensation of gradually becoming the person in the “painting as a mirror” as if I were staring at my own reflection. I physically sense that “I am Dürer (in the painting/mirror)” and “Dürer (in the painting/mirror) is me” at the same moment. It is as if we are not separate entities, but the mirror image of one another. This intimate relationship is extremely stimulating.”
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