Interview by Owen Leong
Translated by Daisuke Harada, Alix Horngacher and Miki Matsumoto
Original Japanese transcript (PDF)
Pyuupiru is an artist living and working in Tokyo. Known for creating elaborate polymorphous three-dimensional works based on delusions and obsessions, her more recent ‘Selfportrait Series’ explores physical and psychological transformation. Created over several years, this work powerfully documents the artist’s experience of sex reassignment surgery. Pyuupiru has exhibited at the Yokohama Triennale and Yokohama Museum of Art. Her performance and installation work has also been commissioned at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. I caught up with Pyuupiru on a recent residency in Japan.
Peril: I am fascinated by the element of transformation in your ‘Selfportrait Series’. Can you discuss how this series evolved?
Pyuupiru: I think that, as an artist, I did not have at first the idea of creating a kind of work of art. Rather, in living my own personal life, this portrait series has been generated naturally as a consequence and I made each work of this series as a piece of my personal record. For me at that time, it was not a thing that I was willing to create, but something generated as a secondary product from the struggle of self-investigation/expression with/on my body. I risked my own life for it. It is like a couturier at the time of his death, in a patient room, cutting up his skin with scissors like spinning quietly his last dress, sewing his skin with thread, smoothing out wrinkles with the laser as if ironing, as if preparing the end of a journey toward a world that could be existing after this one. In addition, it may also be a farewell note of love from me, wandering on the border of life and death. On the assumption that I was on this kind of state of mind, I presented the self-portrait series wrapped in the veil of beauty as art works and also as a proof of my existence from a
different perspective. In facing death, I moved my soul toward life.
Peril: Your images suggest violence, of both a physical and emotional nature. Can you talk a little bit more about this?
Pyuupiru: I hated, to the extent that the world was covered with darkness, the consciousness of my own body and gender. And, I cut myself in with all the negative feelings of human beings including hate, anger, suffering and worry that are existing inside of me as immeasurable prices. Then, I finally succeeded in converting these feelings, obtained life from death and accomplished a reincarnation. I expose the harm to myself instead of pointing it towards the others. It was just because I was eager to know what was awaiting me there, beyond a veil of complete darkness.
Peril: As an artist you have a strong vision for creating an ideal self. Can you talk a bit about the nature of transcendence in your work?
Pyuupiru: It is narcissism.
Peril: You have also created moving image work, in which you become a shapeshifter. How are ideas of the body, identities and liquids important in your video ‘Snow White’?
Pyuupiru: For me, the body is like a vase made of fragile glass. Liquid is an emotion of various colors poured in the vase, and identity is a will to make one pour the liquid into it. You know that the glass changes its shape when heat is added. And you know you choose what you wear by your will. Just like that I’ve transformed my body by my will, both internally and externally. It required me to reveal my very emotion. Emotion is just like a heat having various temperatures, and everyone has it. Though I knew these feelings could be a mere illusion, I’ve tried that way.
Let me briefly explain other aspects of this work as a complement.
On an actual installation site, the movie “Snow White” is projected on a huge mirror. And it seems as if the image itself emerges from the bottom. This is closely connected to the words, which appear in the tale of Snow
White “who is the most beautiful in the world?” Moreover, you also find a dark room with a big mirror and an audio source, and hear the sound of my heartbeat and the “Moldau” of Smetana at high volume. It is a structure where other people, who see my reflection in the glass, see themselves through the mirror.
Peril: What are you working on for the future?
Pyuupiru: Since I was a child, I have a strong interest about life and death of living things. At present, I’m creating a work about “SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery). The images are more focused and direct on these issues than my previous works. I do not speak about the content of the work, but it will probably have a prevailing extreme expression. Besides, I am collecting carcasses of living things or conserving in large quantity the hair that daily falls out. I will metamorphose these impulses of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) into a work.