In conversation with

Yoriko Mizushiri

Image from Anxious Body. Courtesy of MIYU productions, New Deer and the artist
Ahead of her two-person show with Genesis Belanger at MEDIANOCHE0, we talk to the artist about her signature brand of body-based solipsism.

M0: Could you tell us about your artistic journey till today, and why you chose film as a medium?

YM: I majored in design at university. When I was working on my graduation project, and had yet to choose a specialism, I decided to try out hand-drawn animation and found that it suited my voice. I take pleasure from the physical act of crafting animations, and I prefer to work by myself from beginning to end. Short films lend themselves best to this approach, as opposed to large-scale projects.

M0: Your practice focuses on sensory exploration, through all five senses. As the most 'holistic' medium, film seems suitable, but can you envisage using other media? For example, is your VR game Otawamure a direction you’ll further explore?

YM: I strive to make art that allows the audience to become more immersed, and Ottawamure is a work that excels in this regard. However, I wasn’t entirely comfortable needing 3DCG designers and programmers to create the final work. The act of drawing is a key part of my practice and I like to be involved in every step of the animation process. The work is for the audience, but it is also for me. I find it difficult to involve others. I don't want my art to grow without me, so I try to find ways to create as immersive an experience as possible while still using only my own hands.

M0: The slow pace, the highly suggestive motifs and the jarring soundtrack in your pieces all work together to prompt a kind of uneasy trance in the viewer. How do you arrive at this tone, and what are the personal experiences that lead you down this aesthetic path?

YM: I do not see my work as emanating from personal experience, nor do I want to depict animation as behaviour or narrative. Rather, I like to focus on the sensory aspects of objects in motion in response to external stimuli. I feel as if I am looking through a microscope at a scene, with a focus on the details and the feelings it elicits. I work with sensations of skin and bodies because they are the easiest theme with which to empathize.

M0: To the extent that this can be explained with words: what is your work about?

YM: A tactile expression to confirm that I and the audience exist as entities in the form of physical bodies.

M0: How does your gender identity influence your work, if at all? There is a softness to your work, but also a threat that lurks beneath the surface. Can you speak to this tension between opposites?

YM: I identify as a female and inhabit a female body, so my expression can be regarded as feminine. However, I have no intention at all to express or assert something specifically feminine. I draw with the idea that no matter how soft something is, there is a hard structure somewhere inside it, and the viewer may naturally sense that: rather than something explicit, something visually implicit stimulates the senses.

M0: What is behind the faded palette in your work?

YM: I want to bring focus to lines, as well as my particular treatment of them. Subdued colours help do this.

M0: There are recurring symbols in your work - fingers, flesh, snakes, food... Could you elaborate on their significance? What is behind your use of food imagery?

YM: My work is based on observation - it is a zoomed-in version of the act of observing. My art therefore features familiar motifs, as most are from my daily life. They will also be familiar to my audience. Food will quite inevitably be a recurring subject. Snakes are not present in my daily life, this is more of an animator’s whim - I find the way they move fascinating.

M0: Could you tell us about your process from the initial idea until the completion of a piece, including the soundtrack?

YM: For every piece, I start with a set of motions I want to animate. I then draw out as many related scenes and variations on these initial motions as I can think of. Afterwards, I create a storyboard by assembling them in such a way that one motion flows into the next. Once the storyboard is finalized, the film is drawn digitally and edited. The soundtrack is the one area I leave up to a third party - the composer creates something inspired by my animation.

M0: How do you feel about breaking out of the film festival circuit?

YM: I am honoured that my works have been screened at many animation film festivals. However, I have been feeling a little confined to the limited scope of animation film festivals. I hope having my work displayed in an institutional context will help give exposure to my work and lead to interesting opportunities. I am excited to show my work alongside Genesis Belanger. Her motifs are similarly based on everyday or commonplace objects, which she playfully redesigns to achieve a softness that resonates with my work.

Yoriko Mizushiri is an independent filmmaker who graduated from the Joshibi University of Art and Design. Her work, and especially the tactility-focused trilogy comprised of Futon, Snow Hut and Veil, has received awards and mentions at Berlinale,  Animafest Zagreb, Bucheon International Animation Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, L’Alternativa Barcelona Independent Film Festival, Bit Bang International Festival, Blue Danube Film Festival PIAFF, Annecy, Filmfest Dresden. She was the subject of a solo show at UMOCA in 2021 and will exhibit at MEDIANOCHE0 in 2024. You can learn more about her oeuvre at