Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Lana Lin

Mizu Shobai (Water Business)

Mizu Shobai (Water Business)

Lana Lin. Mizu Shobai (Water Business), 1992–1993.

Mizu Shobai (Water Business) blends two stories, one of a geisha who is lost at sea and another of the first geisha to circle the world. The dual narratives collapse into a single female figure, a traveler through time and across cultures. Carried by the act of perception, the geisha drifts beyond the prescribed bounds of "her place" in the world. The Shogun's Seclusion Edict (1637-1868), the historical period of Japanese isolation, states that foreign influence is punishable by death, so that the geisha's passive observations become an active, fatal offense. "Mizu Shobai" literally translates as “water business,” which is the Japanese term for the entertainment world. Encompassing layers of meaning, the phrase refers to liquor and sex, as well as the geisha's stereotyped maudlin lifestyle, which “flows like water.”

"Through lyrical images and narrative shards, Lin builds a critique of the ways in which the figure of the Japanese woman exists in the imaginary." (Manohla Dargis, LA Weekly)


seclusion, typhoon, Japan, floating world, geisha, foreigner, travel, gaze

I Begin to Know YouMizu Shobai (Water Business)Stranger BabyNo Power to Push Up the SkyNo Power to Push Up the Skyeverything is not the sameMysterial Power

Taiwan Video ClubAlmost the Cocktail HourUnidentified Vietnam

New York, NY


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