For Yuriko Sasaoka’s wry exhibition on death and recurrence, the usually stark cement interiors of PHD Group have been overlaid with plush red carpet and purple satin drapes, mimicking the lurid set of the artist’s three-channel-video installation Planaria, 2020–21. Named after an “immortal” flatworm that can regenerate itself endlessly, the video features three fur-clad creatures enacting a deranged ritual in which humanoid dolls with mackerel heads die in various ways, from poison to electrocution to “extreme orgasm.” Their bodies are then placed upon an altar, where a celebrant gleefully claps and lights candles for the deceased. The ceremony is soundtracked by an eerie waltz, with non sequiturs like “I’m afraid of secrets” and “The sound of dying is dull” sung alternately in a childlike squeak and an aged warble. Each verse is punctuated by an exasperated refrain: “No matter how many times I cut you off, you’re always coming back.”
The nightmarish world of Planaria extends throughout the gallery in the form of exquisitely embroidered death scenes and a display of handmade fish figurines. The body of work captivates with its ghoulish and whimsical details—the smile of a locomotive about to hit its victim; doll costumes representing the countries with the highest published suicide rates. The allusion to self-harm is curious considering the victims are always shown to have been maneuvered toward their demise, whether by the video’s trio or by the disembodied green hands of the embroideries. Planaria envisions death as a pervasive, quasi-personified force, but in its relentless absurdity one registers a strange and endearing resilience.