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Japanese Feminist Artist Arrested For 3D-Printing Her Own Vagina

 

Progress on the 3D scanning, construction, and final “Pussy Boat.” Image by artist Megumi Igarashi.

Progress on the 3D scanning, construction, and final “Pussy Boat.” Image by artist Megumi Igarashi.

Last month, it took 22 firefighters to free an American exchange student, hell-bent on capturing the perfect selfie, who had climbed into artist Fernando de la Jara’s “Chacán-Pi” (Making Love) statue in Germany and got stuck in the folds of the giant stone labia. Earlier this week and thousands of miles away in Japan, police arrested and detained Tokyo-based artist Megumi Igarashi, who works under the name Rokudenashi-ko (“No-good girl”), on the accusation of selling the code that could be used to reproduce her own vagina with a 3D printer. Japan, known for its strict obscenity laws (it is illegal to sell pornography that displays un-pixelated genitalia or pubic hair), has a long history of cracking down on art that addresses sexual themes.

According to activist Minori Kitahara, police raided Igarashi’s studio and seized 20 of the artist’s works. Igarashi has denied the allegations, stating that she did not find the data to be obscene and that she had not distributed the 3D-printing information in exchange for money. But, if she is convicted, she could receive a jail sentence or a 2.5 million yen (about $25,000) fine.

Igarashi’s work addresses themes around reclaiming, or as she has said, “demystifying” the female genital form by repositioning and re-appropriating it in the greater sphere of Japanese popular culture and designed objects; she recently hacked a plastic Gundam robot toy model to sport a vagina, and previously gained popularity in Japan for her Decoman (“Decorated Vagina”) series of sculptures. The 3D-printing information was part of a crowdsourcing project to build a “pussy boat”–a kayak molded from a 3D-scan of her vulva–and was to be shared with supporters.

The Guardian reported Kitahara as saying that “Japan is still a society where those who try to express women’s sexuality are suppressed, while men’s sexuality is overly tolerated.”

According to a post on Igarashi’s website, the artist started to work with exploring the form of the vagina because female genitalia are hidden away in Japanese society, and was surprised to see how people got upset with what she thought was just “funny” about decorating sculptures of her own. One of those works, a diorama of the damaged Fukushima power plant using the topography of her labia as the landscape, she describes as “a taboo on top of taboo.”

A petition has been started to protest the charges against Igarashi here.

 

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