‘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
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
Not on display
© Yasumasa Morimura
Shown in 2 exhibitions
World Without End - Photography and the 20th Century, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Dec 2000–25 Feb 2001
See you at the barricades, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 May 2015–29 Nov 2015
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.).
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.
Options 44: Yasumasa Morimura, 1992, (illus.).
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
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Photography', Sydney, 2003, 294 (colour illus.).
Margaret Marsh, Michelle Watts and Craig Malyon, Art - art, research, theory, Melbourne, 1999, 16 (colour illus.). plate no. 2.3
Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, 'Young Friends' New Identity', pg. 21, Heidelberg, Aug 1997, 21 (colour illus.).
Connaissance des Arts, Mar 1993, 104-107, 107 (illus.).