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Slaughter cabinet II





11 Jun 1951 -


‘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




Media category


Materials used

wood, lightbox, gelatin silver photograph




58.0 x 43.0 x 43.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the Young Friends of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1996

Accession number


Artist information


Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 12 publications


George Alexander, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Tableaux - memento mori - screen culture', pg.313-335, Sydney, 2007, 316 (colour illus.), 317, 328 (colour illus.).

Judy Annear, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Art through a lens" photography and the Art Gallery Society', pg.48-50, Sydney, May 2003, 49.

Judy Annear, World without end - Photography and the 20th century, 'World without end: Photography and the 20th Century', pg.8-29, Sydney, 2000, 25, 27, 110 (colour illus.).

Philip Jodidio, Connaissance des Arts, Mar 1993, 104-107, 107 (illus.).

Margaret Marsh, Michelle Watts and Craig Malyon, Art - art, research, theory, Melbourne, 1999, 16 (colour illus.). plate no. 2.3

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Photography', Sydney, 2003, 294 (colour illus.).

Alexandra Munroe, Flash Art, Italy, 1992, 71-74, 72 (colour illus.).

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Japan Foundation (Editors), Art speaks Japanese: Japanese language education kit from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, colour illus.. card no. 15

Macushla Robinson, See you at the barricades, 'An introduction', pg.2-10, Sydney, 2015, 8, 39 (colour illus.), 47.

Jane Somerville, Look, 'Where to now, Contempo?', pg.28-31, Sydney, Jul 2007, 30.

Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, 'Young Friends' New Identity', pg. 21, Heidelberg, Aug 1997, 21 (colour illus.).

Beryl J. Wright, Options 44: Yasumasa Morimura, 1992, (illus.).