Mechanical Boy 2
By Adachi Kazuki


Yotsuya Simon's Mechanical Boy 2 is in the collection of The Tokushima Modern Art Museum. In assembling its collection, the Museum regards as its main theme the gathering of works of modern and contemporary art that deal with the human figure, and Mechanical Boy 2 was added to its collection in keeping with this theme.
Takahashi Toru, the first director of The Tokushima Modern Art Museum, referred to the human figure as the human shape and defined it as one means of mediating between the viewer and the inner spirituality innate to human beings. He argued that when a viewer looks at such a work, he or she analyzes the work's human shape and by so doing strives to understand why the artist made the human shape just so. Then, using this as a foothold, he or she tries to perceive in the work the inner spirituality that should be reflected in the human shape.
What happens if we try to follow this reasoning with Mechanical Boy 2? We would run into difficulties at the very first stage, when we try to analyze the human shape. The difficulty arises because of how Mechanical Boy 2 has been transformed bit by bit, beginning first as a girl, then being transformed into a boy, and now being confined to a glass case like some kind of specimen.
To resolve this difficulty, let us refer to the character Akimaru in Record of the Voyage of Prince Takaoka by Shibusawa Tatsuhiko. In the story, the man Akimaru is transforned into the woman Akimaru, who then becomes the woman Harumaru, before finally changing into a bird. The scene of the "bird dance" is important for our consideration of Mechanical Boy 2. In this scene, Akimaru and Harumaru, who are two continuous and changing beings, are separate but, at the same time, exist as a single entity. In other words, the two are one. This is also the answer to the difficulties presented by the transformations of Mechanical Boy 2. This doll is a girl, a boy, and a specimen-and it is also one entity.
This realization also answers the question the viewer asks at the second stage, of why the artist made the human shape as he did. This is to say, for Yotsuya Simon, the human shape represents both multiple beings and a single entity. The keyword here is "change", for change makes multiple beings continuous.
Finally, with "change" as the keyword, the viewer in the last stage perceives the inner spirituality that should be reflected in the human shape.
Incidentally, one keyword that has already been proposed for Yotsuya Simon is "pygmalionism". By adding "change" as another keyword, we should be able to clarify further the relationship between the viewer and the work. With "pygmalionism" as the keyword, it is his or her own inner spirituality that the viewer perceives in the human shape. What we must note here is just who is doing the perceiving.
In a relationship of pygmalionism, a viewer perceives his or her own inner spirituality in a work. Nothing but narcissism can exist in such a relationship.
This is where the keyword "change" becomes significant. When we approach Mechanical Boy 2, it is for each of us a single work called Mechanical Boy 2. But if only narcissism can exist between the viewer and the work, then the inner spirituality reflected in the Mechanical Boy 2 seen by viewer A is that of viewer A, and that reflected in the Mechanical Boy 2 seen by viewer B is that of viewer B. In other words, the work itself is transformed. The one entity that is Mechanical Boy 2 made by Yotsuya Simon transforms itself in as many ways as there are people who try to approach it. Furthermore, with different dolls, as many different aspects of each viewer are reflected as there are different dolls. As a result, what the viewer is in fact seeing is him- or herself in various different aspects. In that sense, the act of looking at Yotsuya Simon's dolls ultimately results in a questioning of one's own being. From the viewpoint of the theme of the human figure, the ultimate question may be contained in Yotsuya Simon's dolls. @

(Curator, The Tokushima Modern Art Musuem)
"Mechanical Boy 2" translated by Yamazaki Yumiko originally appeared for the catalogue of the exhibition "Simon:Pygmalionisme". We reproduced it under the kindly permission of Adachi Kazuki.