Mesmerising Mariko Mori visualises outer worlds in Rebirth at the Royal Academy

By Ruth Hazard | 21 January 2013

Exhibition Review: Mariko Mori: Rebirth, Royal Academy of Arts, London, until February 17 2013

a photo of a woman in gallery next to a series of wall mounted circualr light sculptures
Mariko Mori at the Royal Academy. Photo: Geraint Lewis
Mariko Mori’s Rebirth is the kind of exhibition you want to tell your friends about. After all, where else would you find a five-metre tall glass monolith that beams the light patterns of cosmic rays as they are picked up by a computer in an observatory in Japan?

Tom Na H-iu II may sound zany, but it’s an incredibly sophisticated concept. Connected in real time to a research lab in Tokyo, it monitors the presence of neutrinos emitted by the sun, the earth’s atmosphere and super nova explosions in outer space.

This is an impressive technological feat. And with Mori citing Buddhist spirituality and prehistoric Jomon culture as influences, it’s clear there’s more at play than just clever science.

a photo of a monolithic light sculpture
Mariko Mori, Tom Na H-Iu II (2005-06)© Mariko Mori Studio. Photo: Richard Learoyd
Named after a Celtic portal said to guide souls back to earth for rebirth, Mori connects the dots between competing ideas of science and spirituality - a theme that is consistent throughout the exhibition.

Other highlights include Transcircle, where nine acrylic "totems" representing the solar system change colour according to planetary movements in space, and White Hole, which leads you into the dark, cavernous reach of the gallery to watch as Mori’s imaginings of life beyond the death of a star swirl across the ceiling.

There’s also a chance to see the first of Mori’s six site-specific installations, Primal Rhythm - shown here on film in Okinawa Bay, which reacts to the changing light of the winter solstice and transforms from red to blue and five other colours in between as the earth moves through the lunar cycle.

Gazing at energy patterns in space and tracing the movements of the solar system may not seem like the typical agenda for an afternoon pottering around the Royal Academy. But as Mori explains, her work is designed to "visualise the world you don’t see".

As a result, this is an exhibition which prompts a thought-provoking, goose-bump inducing consideration of life, the universe and just about everything in between.

Come to think of it, Rebirth is the kind of exhibition you want to discuss with just about anyone who’ll listen.

  • Open 10am-6pm (10pm Friday). Tickets £6-£10 (free for under-12s). Book online. Follow the Academy on Twitter @RoyalAcademy.

Follow Ruth Hazard on Twitter @RuthHazard.

More pictures:

a circle of illuminated stones in a gallery
Mariko Mori, Primal Memory (2004)© Mariko Mori Studio Inc. © Mariko Mori Photo: Richard Learoyd
a circle of illuminated stones
Mariko Mori, Transcircle 1.1 (2004)© Mariko Mori Studio. Photo: Ole Hein Pedersen
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