University of Michigan Museum of Art, Michigan Theater, U-M campus
“Mari Katayama,” the eponymous exhibition featuring the work of contemporary Japanese artist Mari Katayama is the first U.S. solo exhibition of the artist, who will also be featured in the central exhibition of the 2019 Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy). Katayama’s self-portraits examine her own body through photography, textile, performance, and site-specific installation. Katayama was born with tibial hemimelia, a rare condition that inhibits the development of bones in the lower legs, and had her lower legs amputated at the age of nine. Because of her disability and her use of a prosthesis, Katayama has experienced a deep disconnect between her personal conception of self and physicality and what others project and perceive. Katayama uses her art to reconcile this disconnect, to communicate a deeply personal story; embodying various personas through the use of wigs, costumes, and props including stuffed figures modeled after her disabled body and body parts. Katayama treats her entire body, bodily parts, and prosthetics as “materials” to be arranged in photographs, read as soft sculptures and decorated with lace, shells, and shiny objects. As the protagonist in intricately arranged narrative scenes, the artist invites the viewer to voyeuristically experience a private space developed from her imagination. Katayama’s work exposes anxieties that haunt many of us—disabled or nondisabled—living in an age obsessed with body image.
The exhibition at UMMA (on view October 12, 2019 – January 26, 2020) will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S. While on campus, Katayama will participate in a Penny Stamps Speaker Series talk at the Michigan Theater on Thursday, October 10, 5:10 p.m. The talk will be moderated by Natsu Oyobe, Curator of Asian Art at UMMA and the exhibition curator. For the exhibition, UMMA will commission a site-specific work from Katayama, and she will be in residence at U-M for the installation of the work and in early October 2019. At this time, she will engage with U-M students and faculty as well as community members in programming including the Stamps Speaker Series talk as well as an UMMA Dialogue program with Natsu Oyobe. The exhibition will also be featured in teaching and learning for U-M students, docent-led tours for students, and gallery-based In Conversation programs for adults. UMMA anticipates that the exhibition will reach more than 60,000 people, including 5,000 who will engage with exhibition-related programming.