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Himeka Murai

Opening an Old Photo Album

Reimagining Memory and Identity

by Kun Kyung Sok, June 12, 2024

Anymore Door
(Written by Himeka Murai)


This is not a door anymore

This is not used anymore

This is not known anymore

Lying down in front of my house


This is not the present anymore

This is not having memories anymore

This is not destined anymore

Washed away at the white share


This is not me anymore

This is not you anymore

This is not us anymore

Shaped out of shapeless matters


When realized

Lots of shapeless things are murdered by my dreams

Looking behind

There is no door left to open anymore

In her recent exhibition, 𝘽𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘼𝙛𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙝𝙞𝙛𝙩 at a gallery space in the artist Tomokazu Matsuyama's studio, Himeka Murai showcased an installation piece titled "Anymore Door." For an artist who had primarily worked on abstract pieces until then, this installation was highly experimental and related to reality, containing a personal narrative that was absent from her previous works. 

First, she found two abandoned doors connected by hinges in front of her house and picked them up. Then she printed a photograph taken with her brother during childhood onto a thin fabric, split it in half, and attached the right half of her face to the right door and the left half of her brother's face to the left door, resembling curtains. She wrote a poem on the fabric with white chalk and embroidered part of the poem with white thread. The ends of the embroidered threads extended downward, continuing onto the circular artificial grass on the floor. In front of the two panels, she gathered debris from the old doors along with decorative beads, with the dangling threads connecting to these pieces. This eye-catching piece features complex interactions of memory, the passage of time, and identity, exploring the connection between the past self and current identity.

What does the door mean to her, and why is it a diptych? A door connects two spaces, allowing us to move from one place to another. However, an old door that has lost its purpose and is discarded in the yard no longer functions as a door. But the artist took two discarded doors, joined them with hinges, and created a two-panel piece. Through this, the doors were given a new meaning beyond their original function. Although they can no longer facilitate physical movement, they have become a different kind of door that travels through time, connecting the past and present. They have become a symbolic space that links memory and identity. They no longer look like doors. Instead, they resemble a photo album that can be opened and closed, then opened again. While a door, whether open or closed, always leaves a space between, a photo album, when closed, buries all time and memories within its pages. In this installation, Murai half-opened this photo album door to evoke memories of those times.

Diptych traditionally forms a unified narrative by establishing a contrasting or complementary relationship between the two panels. The diptych serves as a powerful formal tool that can simultaneously convey two interrelated stories or themes, allowing Murai to deepen her artistic exploration. In this work, by connecting two originally separate doors with hinges, she links what was once divided, but then disrupts this connection by splitting a single photograph and attaching each half to the two separate panels. Additionally, by showing only half of each face in the photographs, the artist emphasizes the incomplete nature of memory and identity. 

The use of translucent, delicate fabric further intensifies this ambiguity, reminding us that memory and identity are not complete or fixed, but are constantly evolving and being restructured. The artist views identity as fluid, fragmented, and composed of diverse experiences and memories. The poetry written on the fabric and the embroidered thread symbolizes how memories are intertwined with present identity. The content of the poetry speaks about things that are no longer doors, no longer the present, and no longer us, illustrating how identity transforms and distorts over time. The artist's migration from Japan to New York powerfully underscores the constant process of reconstructing identity from the fragile remnants of memories.

An important theme that emerges in Murai's work is the complexity of memory and identity. This installation shows the artist’s ability to transform ordinary objects into profound symbols of memory and identity. By deconstructing and reassembling the familiar, she invites viewers to reflect on their own experiences of loss, change, and resilience. In an era where the boundaries of identity are increasingly fluid and contested, the artist not only honors her history but also offers a space for communal reflection, encouraging us to confront and embrace the complexities of our identities.

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