May 29, 2009 - Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale - Miwa Yanagi at 53rd Venice Biennale
May 29, 2009

Miwa Yanagi at 53rd Venice Biennale


Miwa Yanagi
Windswept Women: The Old Girls’ Troupe
7 June – 22 November, 2009

Preview: 4-6 June 2009
Opening at the pavilion: Friday, 5 June, at 3:00 pm

Commissioner: Hiroshi Minamishima

Miwa Yanagi represents Japan at the 53rd Venice Biennale with her installation entitled Windswept Women: The Old Girls’ Troupe.

For this installation, Yanagi will take the Takamasa Yoshizaka-designed Japan Pavilion built in 1956 and cover its exterior with a black, membrane-like tent. Invoking the original idea of a “pavilion” as a free standing or temporary structure, the fluidity and mobility of the tent form will turn the Japan Pavilion into a temporary playhouse. Inside, Yanagi will install giant 4m high photograph stands containing portraits of women of varied ages. A new video work and series of small photographs will also be shown. Upon entering, viewers will feel disoriented, losing their sense of scale and perspective as they walk among oversized works.

The motif of this installation is a troupe comprised exclusively of women traveling with their mobile house — a tent — on the top of their caravan. This tent, inspired by the novels of Japanese modernist writer Kobo Abe, has already appeared in Yanagi’s previous Fairy Tales (2004-05) series of staged photographs, and has been a key to expressing ambivalent themes such as the tensions between “life and death,” “past and future,” “confinement and mobility” and “everyday life and festival.”

The photographs of gigantic women Yanagi has created for Venice symbolize resolution. They stand unmoved despite being surrounded by turbulent wind. No matter happens, they will keep their feet planted firmly on the ground. Presented in ornately designed decorative frames, these women seem surreal but also embody an element of nostalgia. Although the images themselves have a macabre quality, they encourage us to embrace vitality. They take on added significance in Venice, where the threat of imminent death has been a concern for the city throughout its history, as well as in light of the critical economic recession currently affecting people throughout the world.

Yanagi’s installation expresses respect for the Venice Biennale itself and indicates her arrival as an artist. And, by transcending feminism in its strictest sense, the work is certain to call to mind the fundamental power of art.

A catalogue will be published to accompany the installation in September 2009.

About the Artist:

Miwa Yanagi was born in Kobe, Japan, and completed a postgraduate course at Kyoto City University of Arts. In 1993, Yanagi held her first solo exhibition in Kyoto, where she currently lives. Since 1996, her work has been exhibited internationally. In 1999, she began creating the series My Grandmothers, which realizes the self-perceptions of several young women who were asked to imagine what type of woman they might become in fifty years’ time. In 2004, she was invited to hold solo shows at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin and the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in Kagawa, Japan. An exhibition featuring her recent Fairy Tale series exploring relationships between young girls and older women was organized by the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, in 2005. She has also had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2007, and at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in 2009. Running concurrently with her exhibition at the 53rd Venice Biennale will be a wide-ranging overview of her work at the National Museum of Art, Osaka.

Organized by the Japan Foundation (

For further information, please contact:
(Mr.) Koichi Makise, The Japan Foundation Visual Arts Section, Arts and Culture Department
E-mail:, Tel: +81-3-5369-6062, Fax: +81-3-5369-6038

Contact in Italy:
(Ms.) Atsuko Sato, The Japan Cultural Institute in Rome
E-mail:, Tel:+39-06-322-4754/94, Fax: +39-06-322-2165

Japan Pavilion

Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
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