(Dis)embodied Dualities:Deconstructing Identity in Emi Anrakuji’s 1800 Millimètre Series

    • IMG_7703
    • Presentation speakers
      • Polly Cancro, Pratt Institute, History of Art and Design, USA


    The regular use of her own nude body has led some to describe Emi Anrakuji’s photography as erotic, despite her own insistence to the contrary. Such interpretations demonstrate a reductive tendency to immediately position the nude female form as sex object and “other,” reflecting internalized androcentric biases as well as naturalized gender binary categories and identities associated with them. Furthermore, there is a tendency to simplistically foreground issues of sexuality and gender in art by women. These issues are further compounded by the lack of representation of women in androcentric photographic histories, despite the fact that photography, in comparison with other media, has been historically more accessible to women. Parallel issues arise when considering non-Western photography; not only is there is a relative dearth of Western scholarship dealing with non-Western photography, but Western representations of Japanese art specifically are often criticized for resorting to exoticism and decontextualization. To contribute to the effort to address these issues, this paper considers the complication of identity in Anrakuji’s most recent series 1800 Millimètre. Against decontextualized and reductive interpretations of her work, I argue instead that Anrakuji strategically deconstructs gender and sexuality, using them only as an entry point in order to ultimately grapple with deeper and larger issues concerning human identity and existence. Through the objectification of the human body in simultaneously figural and abstract images, Anrakuji both embodies and complicates various dualities associated with gender, sexuality, and humanity. Her work deliberately confuses normative social constructs, forcing the viewer to confront the socio-historical specificity of meanings ascribed to the human body. Such an analysis not only affords a more nuanced understanding of Anrakuji’s work, which reflects and constitutes broader trends of identity exploration in contemporary Japanese photography, but also aims to encourage similar contextualized analyses of non-Western women’s photography in future scholarship.