February 2023
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Zombie Family

For the International 2002, Aoshima has developed an enveloping 20 metre long mural rising to ceiling height over a sloped wall. Her mythical narratives are well suited to jump off the page into a monumental frieze, mimicking billboards, wallpaper and the time progression in scenes from Japanese anime (animated movies). Aoshima’s neat drawings stand in the tradition of Aubrey Beardsley and the busy Art Nouveau line (itself heavily influenced by the Japonisme of the time) with its ambiguous play of cold classical clarity and a linear ornamentalism that loses itself in intricate swirls, spirals and waves. The mechanical nature of this clean line has been logically translated into digital images drawn with the computer mouse and presented as inkjet prints. Like Beardsley, Aoshima exposes and exploits the titillating sexual tension that emanates from this formal opposition of controlled order and uniform surfaces, and the eternal struggle of the line to break free and find its own meaning. Any excuse to develop a flower or a tree, water or fire into parasitically flourishing ornaments is exploited: Aoshima’s female protagonists are surrounded by fertile, sexually suggestive and obsessively detailed embellishments. The fairytale world of doe-eyed girls oozing with saccharine cuteness is less innocent than Aoshima’s attractive drawings might suggest. The adventures and clumsy mishaps of the young girls with their beguiling mixture of sweet innocence and budding sexuality occasionally contain scenes of morbid savagery with eyes popping out of sockets and bloodbaths at the fish market. Besides the Japanese woodcut tradition (ukiyo-e), Aoshima’s drawings also call to mind the work of Henry Darger – another obsessive draughtsman – especially his gruesome and sexually charged chronicle of the Vivian Girls who similarly battle against a hostile environment. Female adolescence is a hazardous phase full of mysterious physical changes and uncertain, constantly shifting identities. A multitude of outside pressures impel teenage girls to conform or resist the expectations of the adult world and make sense of the seductive overtures from advertising, magazines and television. While revealing the sexual obsessions and violence inherent in both the faux naiveté of Hello Kitty and explicit Manga anime, Aoshima deliberately abstains from overt critique and condemnation of the misogynist nature of some of these cultural products. Like so many artists of her generation, she embraces the imagery and commercial icons that have accompanied her through childhood and youth, avoiding the inevitable break and critical distancing that comes with growing up. Aoshima creates her own mythology that incorporates and expands Japanese artistic traditions and strengthens female gender roles through the playful appropriation of powerful stereotypes. Christoph Grunenberg

Project Credits Courtesy of the artist, Kaikai Kiki and Blum &. Poe, Santa Monica, CA Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art International Exhibition 2002 With support from Canon. With thanks to: Tim Blum, Blum & Poe, Santa Monica, CA; Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris; Gen Watanabe, Hiropon Factory, New York; Kaikai Kiki, New York


14 September – 24 November 2002