Ari Tabei – creating her own home in the natural world, synthetically

Tonight I attended an artist viewing and talk at Fair Folks & a Goat on the Upper East Side.  Artists Cosme Herrera, Eliza Stamps, and Ari Tabei were able to discuss their inspiration and careers, all to a room of attentive spectators.  We spent  the first half hour of the event drinking Pinot Noir and surveying the works as they were displayed across bookshelves, mantles, and of course the walls.

My favorite artist was Ari Tabei from Tokyo (visit her site), whom I found quirky and kind.  She started off by saying she was afraid of the nature and found synthetic materials like vinyl and plastic soothing.  Most themes in art and literature play to man’s need to be close to the natural world and reject the artificial, so Ari’s viewpoint is unique indeed.  She said in most places she visits, people don’t understand – except for people in New York City.

“Interacting with the garments and bags, I invent ritualistic play that revives my childhood experiences and interprets the influences of my culture. My interest in rituals is influenced by my childhood in Japan where I was instructed in the importance of mindfully engaging in daily and ordinary activity with severe discipline…As I engage myself in the performance of ritual play, my intention is to reach for understanding and transformation. In this practice of conscious engagement, I seek a truth about self and a transformative process which reveals both desperation and hope.”

Body Bag #1 - Vacuum-packed hay, vinyl

In Body Bag #1, Ari created a “home” of vacuum-packed hay that she could carry around in a bag.  She progressed to the idea of how bugs scavenge and burrow and create caccoons or habitats to protect themselves from.

The Dress for Today series includes six dresses that Ari created out of scraps of fabric, eggshells, plastic bags; anything she can find (or have donated) that would protect herself.

Dress for Today #3 - Felt, flour, still from video performance

In Dress for Today #3, Ari created a dress with small bags of felt tied to it.  During her performance she would shake, breaking the bags as a ritual to purify herself.

Lately I have been thinking about how our over-connectedness makes it difficult to retreat and find solitude.  I found it easy to relate to Ari’s need to protect herself and create her own world.  She spoke about how for Dress for Today #2, tying each scrap of fabric felt meditative and for each knot a wish was being made.

Dress for Today #2 -Fabricscraps

Ari also told me that she would always get nervous during performances, but I feel that her obsession with creating rituals while she performs is from the soothing quality of repeating actions that are familiar to her and have a purpose.  I think it’s also interesting that though she is afraid of the natural world – particularly bugs – she finds comfort in performing actions that are indeed bug-like, such as in Dress for Today #5, where she literally burrows herself in newspaper in order to create a home for herself.

Dress for Today #5 - Newspaper


Ari, full of life, quirk, and humility, is 37 years old and continually has focus on her career as an artist and performer.  It was inspiring to meet her and realize I still have plenty of time to pursue my own career in art, and there is no better time to start than now.

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