Step Inside Mariko Mori’s Pearlescent Livable Masterpiece
Two decades ago, the Japanese artist Mariko Mori began spending her summers at a friend’s house on the island of Okinawa in the middle of the East China Sea. She enjoyed her morning ritual of looking out at the ocean while she sketched. In love with the setting, Mori began to look for land on which to build a place of her own and in 2016 acquired a plot along the coast of Miyako Island, nearly 200 miles southwest of Okinawa. (A three-hour flight from Tokyo, it’s closest to Taiwan than it is to Japan.)
Compact and with a gentle landscape, Miyako is a popular destination because of its mild weather, long stretches of white-sand beaches, and beautiful coral reefs. Some might even dare to call the island—where hibiscus flowers grow along the side of the road and white lilies climb toward the sky—paradise. “It’s beautiful,” Mori declares. “The ocean is almost like an aqua green or emerald. It’s a beautiful palette of blue and blue-green.” The artist spent five years observing the land in relationship to the sun and the natural environment, and 3D-modeling various forms and structures. She then partnered with Tokyo’s Ring Architects to build a house that would be in harmony with the landscape.
Born in Tokyo, Mori originally studied fashion design while working as a model before turning her attention to art. After attending Byam Shaw and later the Chelsea College of Arts in London, she began to produce inventive images where she portrayed herself—often in futuristic dress, looking otherworldly in ordinary scenes of everyday Japan. Later, her work shifted, becoming more spiritual and also more sculptural. Think: a giant, silvery orb that one can climb inside and watch the patterns of their own brain waves move across its walls (Wave UFO). Mori seemed to be envisioning the future or at least a future that she wanted to live in.
Her most recent work, which is perhaps her most ambitious, involves six site—specific sculptures-reminiscent of light-and-space artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin—that she plans to site in natural environments on six different continents. Two have already been installed. In 2016, she hung a giant translucent ring above a waterfall in a rain forest in Rio de Janeiro. Before that, in 2011, she created Primal Rhythm, which involved placing a translucent column—called *Sun Pillar—*on a small outcrop of rocks off the coast of Miyako. She eventually plans to have it joined by Moon Stone, a floating orb that will change colors according to the ebb and flow of the tide.
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