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Alisa Yang (MFA ‘16): Feminist Thought in Japan’s Love Hotels

Alisa Yang (MFA ‘16): Feminist Thought in Japan’s Love Hotels

Each year, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) awards U-M graduate students funding to support wide-ranging projects related to women, gender, and sexuality. Recently, Stamps student Alisa Yang (MFA '16) was one of 23 graduate students to receive the honor for one of her MFA thesis projects, Please Come Again.

A fully immersive multimedia installation featuring a 3-channel video projection, Please Come Again narrates three generations of Asian women's sexuality and femininity through the lens of Japanese “love hotels,” establishments that offer couples a space for eroticism, intimacy, and freedom of expression. As part of the Stamps MFA International Requirement, Alisa Yang travelled to Kyoto and Osaka during the summer of 2015 to create an experimental film about love hotels.

“A really striking thing that I learned about love hotels during my trip is how female-friendly the newer ones have become,” said Alisa, citing amenities such as brand-name bath products, facial masks, gourmet food, female-friendly pornography, and other courtesy items marketed towards female customers. To Alisa, this targeted marketing represented a cultural shift - from a society where women are focused on pleasing others to a society where it's okay for women to please themselves.

Please Come Again explores love hotels as a metaphor for the female body. I'm trying to portray the internal journey of Asian women exploring the intersection of love, identity, and relationship to gender constructs.”

A first generation Taiwanese American with a deeply conservative family background, Alisa speaks powerfully about the cultural constraints that occur when women suppress their own desires, talents, and contributions in order to conform to the societal expectation of subservience to husband and family.

“I know this sounds really cheesy, but I don't think I had a choice in being an artist; it has always been an obsessive impulse and my way of processing the world.”

Please Come Again is my sincere attempt in dealing with my own patriarchal family structure and exploring an alternative solution. It ended up being a very personal trip for me, it stirred up a lot of sentiment and memories I didn't expect, so I decided to incorporate my internal experience into the project.”

Designed to replicate the experience of stepping into an actual love hotel, Please Come Again is a fully immersive environment complete with carpet, projection screen, wallpaper, and various props.

“My work is highly narrative - which is partly just inevitable because it is our innate nature to create meaning even when there is none,” Alisa said.

“Art engages us when we become aware of our own personal narratives for the work at hand. Visual art requires active looking and whatever your interpretation is, just trust that it's valid.”

Please Come Again is on view in the Argus II Building (400 4th St., Ann Arbor) as part of the Stamps School of Art & Design's MFA Thesis Exhibitions, on display March 11 - April 2, 2016. The opening reception for the exhibition takes place on March 11 from 7:30 - 9:30 pm.

Discover more about Alisa's work at alisayang.com, and learn about all 23 of the 2016 IRWG recipients here.

Story by Truly Render. Photos by Alisa Yang.