(Japan 11 Jun 1951 – )
58.0 x 43.0 x 43.0 cm
‘Slaughter cabinet II’ was made in response to the 1990–91 Gulf War. The work is based on a famous image by American photojournalist Eddie Adams and is a rare instance where Morimura directly comments on recent political events. Morimura made a number of other works at this time using Francisco Goya and Jean-François Millet as sources, however ‘Slaughter cabinet II’ remains unusual in his oeuvre because of the use of an image from the news media and the proximity of the original image to the present (Adams’s photograph was taken in 1968).
‘Slaughter cabinet II’ re-creates the events depicted in Adams’s photograph. The artist transfers the events to downtown Osaka, Japan, near where he lives, and becomes each player in the image. Many questions arise from this work: What is it like to be shot in a city street? What is it like to be the observer? The killer? Does it make any difference if the killing takes place in our own neighbourhood? Morimura’s intention appears to be to remind viewers of the immediacy and personal nature of all war; that war involves all humanity and that we are complicit, regardless of which nations are involved or the reasons for the conflict.
Morimura has stated that he is interested in the relationship between ‘to see’ and ‘to be seen’, that the latter – ‘to be seen’ – and its implications, have largely been ignored.1 Through his work he is able to see himself in the role of others being seen through the camera. This complex set of visual relationships allows him to parade for himself in a variety of guises. To some extent the work is narcissistic, even necrophiliac, although by using famous and familiar images as his source Morimura always maintains a point of connection with his audience.
1. Annear J 1997, ‘Peepshow: inside Yasumasa Morimura’s looking glass’, ‘Art Asia Pacific’, no 13 p 44
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
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World Without End - Photography and the 20th Century, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Dec 2000–25 Feb 2001