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Mallika Rao
Mallika Rao reports on Asian and Asian-American art for the Huffington Post. She used to draw cartoons (of Lifetime movies) at Jezebel, and write all over the place.

Entries by Mallika Rao

Chinese Businessman Sips Tea From $36.3 Million Ming Dynasty Cup, Angers The Internet

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2014 | 4:08 PM

Public opinion does not favor the rich person who acts it. First there was Marie Antoinette, purportedly prescribing cake. Now there's Liu Yiqian, a Shanghai businessman who recently shattered records by buying a tiny porcelain cup with poultry painted on it for $36.3 million.


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India's 'Flower Men' Are A New Kind Of Masculine

(11) Comments | Posted July 17, 2014 | 8:50 AM

There's much to admire in Calcutta's famed Mallick Ghat flower market, but Danish photographer Ken Hermann focused on the dudes. It's easy to see why. The combination of stoic men draped in all manner of florals certainly does a number on traditional visions of masculinity.

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This Mind-Bending Video Of 'Rain' Falling Is Actually Something Much Cooler

(0) Comments | Posted July 16, 2014 | 8:59 AM

Anyone who's experienced a true thunderstorm knows the acoustic complexity of rain. What sounds like a cohesive force is really just a bunch of individual notes, the effect of many single droplets falling on various surfaces at a rapid pace.

This is the schema underpinning "Amaoto no Yurai," or...

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Japan Arrested The 'Vagina Artist,' But These 5 Phallic Toys Are Apparently Fine

(49) Comments | Posted July 15, 2014 | 4:51 PM

The Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi has long been on a mission to make vaginas "casual and pop." It seems in Japan, that's a battle cry. Early this week, Igarashi, who goes by the name Rokudenashi-ko or “Good-For-Nothing Girl,” was arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

Her crime was honoring the terms of a crowd-funded project. In a bid to raise money to build a boat shaped like her vulva -- status quo for our girl -- Igarashi offered a prize that runs afoul of Japan's obscenity laws. (See the rather innocuous project video above.)

Donors of a certain level received files containing the 3D data the boat is modeled on, whereby they could, if they wanted, print out Igarashi's vulva for themselves. Japanese police seem be interpreting this as a sale, rather than a donation-based exchange. The arrest has made international headlines, and inspired at least one petition demanding Igarashi's release, with more than 10,000 signatures so far.

Igarashi isn't an unthinking exploitation artist. As the 42-year-old explained last year in an interview with HuffPost, her interest in demystifying female genitalia is personal. She was once ashamed of her body. Like so many women worldwide, she underwent vaginal rejuvenation surgery. She puts the choice down to ignorance. Female genitalia, rarely discussed in Japanese society, seemed to her inherently imperfect. "I did not know what a pussy should look like," she wrote on the boat's crowd-funding page.

Igarashi decided to elevate the vagina's status by honoring it with pop art pieces (and using unabashed terms like "pussy"). Size can matter, she told HuffPost, which is why her vulvic art, like the boat, is so large. "People bear the sense of reverence against a big thing."

For proof, look no further than Japan's annual penis festival. Rooted in ancient tradition, the Kanamara Matsuri, or "Festival of the Steel Phallus," sees thousands of men and women celebrating male genitalia in every way imaginable, save perhaps the most obvious: licking anatomically correct lollipops, grinning from behind penis-shaped novelty glasses, and hoisting enormous phallus sculptures into the air for all to enjoy.

Then there is Igarashi's 3D vulva. As reference, here is the article of Japanese penal code she allegedly overstepped by sharing the potential to recreate it:

A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more than 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same for the purpose of sale.

To which, we offer the following images from this spring's Kanamara Matsuri:






UPDATE: Per The Guardian, Igarashi has just been released from police custody and will join her lawyer in a press conference sometime Friday. It is still unclear if the artist faces criminal charges, which could result in up to two years in prison.

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Congolese Photographer Captures The Beauty Of Daily Street Life In Puddles

(6) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 8:44 AM

Next time you pass a puddle, take a look. You may find wonders inside. Consider "Un Regard," a photographic series by Kiripi Katembo Siku, set in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a twist on the classic genre of "daily life" photography,...

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The Ai Weiwei Museum Of All Of Our Dreams Is Coming

(1) Comments | Posted July 11, 2014 | 9:01 AM

It's a famous story in Christopher Tsai's family, of his grandfather, who had flown in for a visit in the mid-1960s, demanding an explanation for “that thing on the ceiling.”

The “thing,” dangling from the Tsai family home in Connecticut, was a mobile. Not just any but an original Alexander...

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(0) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 11:29 PM


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On Kawara, Japanese Conceptual Artist, Dies At 81

(3) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 5:10 PM

On Kawara, the 81-year-old Japanese painter and conceptual artist whose fascination with human mortality was legend, has died, The Huffington Post has learned.

The news -- first circulated on Twitter -- was confirmed by a representative of the David Zwirner Gallery. The gallery has represented the artist...

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You Might Not Know It, But Parakeets Have Invaded The Skies Of Tokyo

(5) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 8:53 AM

No one would expect to see green parrots in Tokyo, but that's precisely the sight that seems to greet you when you look skyward in the Japanese city. In fact, the hordes of lime-colored birds are parakeets, the wild descendants of pets imported from India and Sri Lanka...

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Kama Sutra-Inspired Posters Raise Awareness Of An Unlikely Topic -- Police Brutality In Brazil

(0) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 8:46 AM

It's a famous quote, attributed to Alfred Hitchcock: "Film your murders like love scenes, and your love scenes like murders." Apply that logic to poster art, and you've got the concept behind #Kamasurra, a Brazilian graphic design series that depicts police brutality in the style of erotica.

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These Gorgeous Vintage Kimonos Will Change The Way You Think Of The Japanese Garment

(1) Comments | Posted July 8, 2014 | 8:49 AM

If we think of the kimono at all, it's of the heavy, silken, flowery garments of the Edo period, starting in the early 1600s. They were status symbols, a way for merchants to show their wealth without threatening the primacy of shoguns, who ruled the fiefdom.

As Japan westernized, so...

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You May Not Know About The First Chinese Americans, But You Should

(18) Comments | Posted July 7, 2014 | 8:49 AM

It wasn't easy being Chinese American in the early days. From exclusionary laws to the racist caricatures that dotted newspaper comic pages, America wasn't exactly laying down the welcome mat.

And yet, there were success stories. The Chinese American, a newspaper founded by the activist and journalist Wong Chin Foo,...

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Chinese Artist Exhibits Gorgeous 'Sculptures' Built By Bees

(10) Comments | Posted July 5, 2014 | 1:44 AM

The Beijing-based artist and beekeeper Ren Ri is a focused man. His new three-part series -- titled "Yuansu" in reference to the Chinese word for "element" -- turns bees into his collaborators. Yuansu II features sculptures made by bees, of beeswax.

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How China's Most Famous Grounded Artist Collaborated With A Navajo Man Thousands Of Miles Away

(0) Comments | Posted July 5, 2014 | 1:38 AM

The idea was to raise the profile of a small Navajo art festival by roping in Ai Weiwei, the fiery Chinese dissident artist. And that's precisely what's happened. Suddenly, Navajo TIME, an annual festival that takes place deep in the desert in the American Southwest, is making headlines....

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The Accidental Sensuality Of Ancient Indian Wrestling

(7) Comments | Posted July 2, 2014 | 9:16 AM

There is something inherently photogenic about kushti, an ancient form of wrestling practiced in India. For more than 2,000 years, men known as pehlwans (wrestlers) have trained assiduously in the sport, rising at dawn to stretch and fight under the guidance of a Hindu guru, or Muslim ustad. It's a...

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Artist Uncovers The Musical Score Hiding In A Japanese Skyline

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 12:50 PM

The artist Koshi Kawachi is a master of turning the everyday into the sublime. His latest project converts mountain ranges and cityscapes into musical scores, so you can "hear" the shape of the environment.

The score above was created for a recent exhibit at the 500m Museum in the city of Sapporo, on Japan's Hokkaido island. Kawachi scored the skyline as viewed from the Sapporo JR Tower, a 38-story skyscraper that acts as a gateway to the city. Built off the skyline's critical points, the score is played on a tonkori, a plucked string instrument indigenous to the island.

Kawachi's other compositions include a take on the Shinjuku region in Tokyo, and one based on the Bavarian Alps. Because, of...

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Watching This Japanese Craftsman At Work Could Give You A 'Brain Orgasm'

(20) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 9:28 AM

It's not hard to find someone online who claims to have experienced autonomous sensory meridian response.

The non-clinical term refers to a pleasurable tingling that spreads through the scalp and neck. Known in some circles of the internet as a "brain orgasm," the sensation has been...

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Introducing The Canvas Chair, Or A Drawing You Can Actually Sit On

(1) Comments | Posted June 27, 2014 | 9:32 AM

Remember that drunk Denver lass who rubbed her bare backside all over a $30 million Clyfford Still painting, damaging it for no apparent reason?

That's not exactly the logic guiding The Canvas Chair, a curious new offering from the MoMA Design Store. The seemingly two-dimensional, still-life painting of...

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Japan's 'Toilenniale' Is Shaping Up To Be The World's Best Toilet-Themed Art Festival

(2) Comments | Posted June 26, 2014 | 9:07 AM

In news that was bound to happen, a city in Japan is planning what seems to be an ambitious arts festival, with a twist. Oita, a midsize manufacturing city, hopes to "make its mark" by hosting the world's first ever "Toilenniale" next summer, reports Quartz:

The city is...
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Disturbing Animation Imagines A World Where Breathing Is Outlawed

(0) Comments | Posted June 26, 2014 | 9:01 AM

The London-based animation studio Beakus has created the ultimate dystopian future.

The world of "Last Breath" -- the film posted above, directed by Mak Ying-Ping -- has a lot wrong with it. Chief among the difficulties of living there is that citizens aren't allowed to breathe. And...

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