Mariko Mori’s glowing sculptures and ritualistic performances simultaneously reference technology, spirituality, and exterrestrial dimensions. Raised by a father who was both an art historian and an inventor, Mori went on to study at the Chelsea College of Art & Design in London in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Landing back in Tokyo soon after, she began her career by placing her own body at the center of staged photographs. In early pieces like Subway (1994), Mori appears as a wig- and armor-clad cyborg-demigoddess traversing a teeming, technology-obsessed Tokyo. Similarly, in performances like Tea Ceremony (1995), she simultaneously referenced Japanese culture and gender dynamics. Wearing an outfit that was part-alien, part-secretary, she robotically served tea to Japanese businessmen.
By the late 1990s, technology itself became Mori’s primary medium. In Wave UFO (1999–2003), she constructed a pearlescent pod resembling an alien spacecraft. Upon entering, viewers were hooked up to headsets that translated their brainwaves into imagery projected onto the vessel’s walls (Mori consulted hundreds of scientists, technologists, and designers to realize the feat). Later projects have explored Mori’s interest in universal spiritual consciousness. In 2005, Mori outfitted the monolithic, orb-like Tom Na H-iu with intelligent LED lights that were networked to an observatory, located within the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, which tracked the death of stars. The sculpture’s pulsing light patterns corresponded with the life cycle of celestial bodies located across the universe. Mori realized her most ambitious project to date in 2016, when she suspended an incandescent ring atop Brazil’s towering Véu da Noiva waterfall; the permanent installation’s unveiling corresponded with the opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.