Jonathan Jones on Rokudenashiko


Jonathan Jones*2 “It's obscene that Japan found Megumi Igarashi guilty for her vagina art”


Every culture has its own complicated set of rules about sex. The fact that rules are made to be broken only adds to the fun. That is probably all we can conclude from the case of the Pussy Boat.

The artist Megumi Igarashi, known as Rokudenashiko, has been found guilty of obscenity in Japan for publishing data from which it is possible to 3D print a replica of her vagina, to raise funds for a kayak inspired by her genitalia. To any westerner who has ever looked at Japanese art, it seems a startling verdict.

ここでいう”Japanese art”とは(例えば)鈴木春信や葛飾北斎春画から荒木経惟に至る〈伝統〉。

Igarashi is exposing the illogicality and irrationality of Japan’s obscenity law – her vaginal kayak is a deliberate satire of a nonsensical set of rules. Yet no culture is rational about the sexual images and acts it licenses or forbids. Certainly, the west is in no position to look down on Japan, given its own strange and ever-changing attitudes.

European and American ideas about art and sex are still haunted by Christianity. The nude remains a fraught and contentious arena*3 – the painter George Shaw*4 ’s conflation of “artistic” nudes with pornographic magazines in his new exhibition at the National Gallery wittily plays on those anxieties*5 .

That Japanese cultural mixture of extreme freedom and suppression, to which Igarashi has drawn attention, vindicates the French philosopher Michel Foucault. In his final work, The History of Sexuality*6, this controversial thinker argued that far from being the universal urge Freud identified, libido is shaped by “discourses” of sexuality that not only regulate but also shape and promote desire. Sex is not natural but cultural, a realm as strange as an octopus’s garden.
知への意志 (性の歴史)

知への意志 (性の歴史)

See also

Justin McCurry “Japanese vagina kayak artist found guilty of obscenity”
“Japan vagina artist cleared over kayak model but fined for data distribution”


*2:See also

*3:See Jonathan Jones “The top 10 female nudes in art”

*4:See eg. Kate Kellaway “George Shaw, 49: ‘Every second, every ounce of time has to be accounted for’ “

*5:See Jonathan Jones “George Shaw review – down, dirty and delightful in the woods”

*6:See also