Japanese Artist Megumi Igarashi Contests Arrest for “Vagina Kayak”

I recently came across This Article about Megumi Igarashi, a Japanese artist who was arrested in 2014 for an art piece where she paddled a “two-meter long 3D printed kayak modeled after her own genitals.”

Igarashi is interviewed in the article, and has a lot of interesting things to say about her experience of being a woman in Japan. I really admire the way she contextualizes her work within Japanese culture, and how she combines political issues with technology to create a new context for which we can view or understand Japanese womanhood. This article just made me think about our class today re: our discussion about who ‘belongs’ or feels ‘safe’ in what spaces. Particularly, Igarashi’s description of how pornography is advertising freely in an objectifying manor in Japan really made me question whether or not this setting can truly be “public” space (or, transportation service).

Check it out if you have a minute, it would be really interesting to hear your thoughts.

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4 comments

  1. Hi! To begin, thank you for sharing this article.

    I found the article to be very interesting especially considering the lecture in class today regarding the history of our bodies. Descartes believed in mind over body although the female mind has always been considered one of irrationality, he saw these two as something to separate in order to involve ourselves. However, the body and mind are rooted within each other, through the Louis example in class we see how the body, identity and mind, that separation becomes impossible for the female gender.

    In your article we can see how woman in Japanese culture much like other parts of the world as well, are considered to be the lesser sex. The artist is unable to freely express her sexuality although it can be expressed for her through multiple mediums in Japan. It’s as if the concept of the ‘male gaze’ is subverted and the moment a woman reflects on her own body or beauty in any way, it is wrong. Considering Japan has such a large porn industry and showcasing of nudity, it shocks me that an artist cannot create their own projects or pieces surrounding the body as an object. The artists understanding of feminism seemed a little odd to me considering feminists focus on the equality of all genders, she seems to think it is solely woman’s issues which is never the realistic case. I think her view on the reactions and perceptions of others in terms of the vagina is really interesting because I do not think our culture is any more comfortable with ‘vagina-anything’ other than humorous or purely sexual communication. I have to agree with her in this way and in how ridiculous it is that she has been fined for creating art that has no reasons for concern. Using art to break apart from the ideologies and hierarchies surrounding gender is inspiring and powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Danica for sharing this. I’ll add this to our artist Category! She is definitely a body artist.

      And thanks to Zara for your comments and your final line “Using art to break apart from the ideologies and hierarchies surrounding gender is inspiring and powerful.” It is my hope that through our work in the class we can try to do that. As I said in class: “What is at stake for bodies that make art?”

      Moving from there, we can reflect on the history of the female nude and women appearing nude in art. HIstorically the female nude is a woman’s body as represented by men. Doesn’t seem to be a problem. Until — a woman takes control of her image and then her art is considering narcissistic, frivolous, uncontrolled and of course dangerous and must be censored.

      — Think about which bodies are allowed where — women’s bodies are allowed on the canvases as ‘overtaken’ by the movement of men (and their tools), and men’s bodies are allowed to make the canvas and experts in movement (with their tools).

      Why is it that men can make art depicting women’s bodies in the nude and women are systematically judged if they do the same?

      Some recent examples include Petra Collins’s Instagram account removal because she posted a photo of a girl in underwear that showed pubic hair.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/petra-collins/why-instagram-censored-my-body_b_4118416.html

      Judy Chicago is another artists that used vaginal motifs.
      Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues http://www.randomhouse.com/features/ensler/vm/
      Susie Bright http://susiebright.blogs.com/

      I urge you to pursue this topic if you are interested! I look forward to more discussions.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I had a lecture this evening in my History of 20th Century Fashion class on bodies that fits this topic. My professor touched on the fact that historically, males usually painted female bodies as sites or objects of pleasure. Additionally, she brought up an exceptional example of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s “Male Nude known as Hector” completed in 1778. It was refreshing to see a detailed male nude amongst the sea of female nudes painted by men in her lecture.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s also worth mentioning how much women are affected by those established attitudes towards their sexuality. Not only are they seen as objects, too often they feel themselves as objects. Or, at least, as those, whose bodies must be improved somehow in order to be consistent with “statutory standards”. In this regard Jamie McCartney’s work is very interesting as he tries, according to him, to deconstruct traditional understanding of female sexuality and to present the most intimate part of woman’s body just as a manifestation of human diversity. Specifically, he expresses hope that his work can help “to combat the exponential rise, seen in recent years, of cosmetic labial surgeries”. Yet, he is a man, and that makes me wondering whether the same artistic work made by a woman would have been praised to the same extent.

    http://www.greatwallofvagina.co.uk/home

    Like

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