Noriko Yamaguchi

Although still formally categorized as an ‘emerging artist’, Noriko Yamaguchi has created a body of work that is both critically aware of current artistic trends as well as being culturally investigative, and, true to her Japanese roots. Spread across a highly stylistic and adventurous series of installations, sculptures, performance, video and print, Yamaguchi evokes a truer sense of contemporary Japan than that of her predecessors.

Her most known series, ‘Keitai Girl’, immortalizes modern society’s obsession with technology and communication. Yamaguchi herself adds a second layer of skin, in the form of cell-phone keypads, across her body creating an almost robotic figure that encapsulate the Japanese fascination with manga, the traditional geisha, and technology. Yamaguchi uses her own body as a physical example of society’s obsessions and presents extreme juxtaposed arguments in regards to the importance of the female gaze, the digitalized world and our further disconnection from the natural state. Her performances are astutely choreographed yet remain undetermined and involve a high degree of audience participation. Although these ‘girls’ are a being of their own obsession, they also thrive on their interaction with others – quite a personable and vulnerable emotion. Yamaguchi has formulated a synthetic being that has evolved from technology yet still harbours ‘contact’ to one degree or another. Is this a sign of the times, or merely a preordained fact of our future?

The use of the female form is a fundamental part of Noriko’s practice. However, it is the use of her own body that arouses debate about current feminist theory and its place in contemporary art making today. Yamaguchi envelops the body in material; whether that is cell-phone keypads, beans, tacks, chains or peppermint gum. The desired objects crawl, sit, sleep, flash and interact with Noriko’s bodies like entities of their own – it is hypnotic, beautiful and incredibly warming to watch. Her photographs are well produced and show a high regard for the medium as a communicative tool for performance. The process of creating a second skin for herself is reminiscent of groundbreaking female artists of the 80’s, yet, it is this relationship to Japanese culture that is most surprising, and is what perhaps sets Yamaguchi apart from other practitioners producing work today. Her materials not only relate to current themes in contemporary society, they act as a haunting message of Japan’s history, pride, and even struggles, throughout years past.

The interpretations vary from piece to piece. Yamaguchi has created a mysterious persona for herself as a performer and artist. Her message is elusive yet her process is striking and provocative. The work exudes a highly charged element of sexuality yet they work only to communicate the broader idea of the body and its metamorphosis throughout history. Yamaguchi has a long career ahead of herself and it enlightening to see someone so young already creating a body of work that rivals that of her mentors.


Oct. 13 – Nov. 3, 2007


May. 7 – Jun. 5, 2011


Feb. 7 – Mar. 8, 2015


Further readings