Landscapes with a Corpse

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Image of a young man standing in front of a large wall mounted photograph from Izima Kaoru's series "Landscapes with a Corpse"
Landscapes with a Corpse, Izima Kaoru.
Kimura Yoshino wears Alexander McQueen, 2007.

to make one’s self visible in the moment of disappearance
— Izima Kaoru

Life & Death

We’re going to take our inspiration this week from Japanese Photographer Izima Kaoru. For 25 years now he’s been working on his Landscapes with a Corpse project. You see a few examples on this page.

In Art History, Memento mori paintings were paintings to “remind us of death.” To remind us of our own human mortality. Kaoru follows in the Memento Mori tradition. Although the Memento Mori paintings were a little bit more decomposed. Karou’s paintings are a little bit more Prada. Part fashion photography, part landscape, crime, cinema, these images are the rare opportunity to see your own death, and then get up and walk away from it.

Image from Izima Kaoru's "Landscapes with a Corpse" photographic Memento Mori series
Landscapes with a Corpse, Izima Kaoru.
Koike Kiko wears Gianni Versace, 2004.

Your Art Experience

In your Art110 Landscapes with a Corpse activity inspired by Kaoru, you imagine your departure and create a photographic self-portrait. You can have all the help you like. Try working with other Art110 students to help each other and share props! Some of you will, no doubt, have a lot of fun with “movie blood,” although none is required, capturing the great stillness of life is sufficient. You can use any “legal” space on or off campus. Be sure to clean up.

2 Pix

In addition to beautiful clothes and ideal “departure” settings, another hallmark of Karou’s work is that he takes a series of images at very different distances from the subject: the wide image might show a huge section of Tokyo skyline, and then zoom progressively in on a body on a rooftop. In your activity try to take 2 or more images that show different context, or framing, or figure-ground relationships.

Your Essay

In addition to your pictures, discuss:

  1. What you were going for
  2. How successful you think you were or were not
  3. What you would do differently if you tried this activity again
photo looking down the atrium of a multi-story dorm with a woman's body splattered on the ground below
Robina Borrero, Art 110, Fall ’12
detail of woman's body (simulating her demise) at the bottom of a college dorm atrium with a red plastic cup splattered beside her
Robina Borrero, Art 110, Fall ’12

a woman floating, unconscious (simulated) in a pool and holding flowers
Adriana Maciel

My boyfriend of two years broke up with me about a month ago and it hurt me tremendously. He was my first true love and I couldn’t imagine my life without him because I thought he was the one. We had lived together and we had been through so much in those years we shared. The week after he broke up with me I felt like I was literally drowning with emotions and everything reminded me of him or memories we shared, etc. I had never felt a heartbreak like this and I didn’t think I would ever overcome the feelings and depression I was dealing with.

I feel like this is not a representation of what I was feeling when I was ‘drowning’ in my sorrows, but I feel like this represents how I am feeling now. I understand why it didn’t work out with Andrew and I got closure from him so I am feeling a lot better about the situation. I feel at peace. I did drown figuratively but now I am content with myself and I feel like I let that piece of me that was so attached and heartbroken drown but I kept myself as a person afloat.

Adriana Maciel

Comments? Questions? What great art did you see, make, or experience today?