Cocoons: Transformation through Fantasy

Plan Author

  • Kirsten Wiking, 2014

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Conceptions of Time and Space in Asia
  • Course: Modern Chinese History & Culture
  • Course: TESOL Certificate II
  • Tutorial: Artificiality and Fantasy in Sculpture

Project Description

A sculptural installation that explores themes of fantasy and femininity.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

    • Joseph Smith, Mount Holyoke College


The main component of my Plan is an installation in which I will create a forest environment that showcases my works in sculpture that explore themes of femininity and transformation. The second part of my Plan is a paper on Japan’s kawaii (cute) subculture, and how women’s participation in kawaii culture is an expression of resistance against traditional women’s roles. My independent project is a video installation that illustrates a shift that occurred in kawaii culture in the 1990s, in which the subculture became less girlish and infantile and more androgynous and experimental.

I often consider how my work in the visual arts can reflect what I study surrounding Japanese subcultures and changes in the lives of Japanese women. Cocoons appear as a frequent motif in my work because I believe Japanese subcultures function like cocoons in the sense that women encase themselves within a subculture in order to enter a space suspended beyond the expectations of mainstream society. Within this space, women can develop as individuals, emerging from these cocoons transformed, able to transcend the expectations of their gender.

This Plan of Concentration is a consideration of how fantasy, whether in an installation or a subculture, creates space that allows for a departure from the everyday or the mainstream, and I hope that viewers and readers of my work are left with this sense.


Kawaii culture is appealing because it allows women to recover childlike emotions, creating the sense of returning to an idealized state of girlhood. This desire to return to childhood is tied to the desire to avoid adult life responsibilities. Women’s adult role in Japanese society continues to be that of wife and mother, a role that asks young women to set aside their individuality and freedom for an undesirable set of duties. Kawaii culture provides an escape from this adult role, and reflects the increase in women who choose to remain unmarried. The trend of women rejecting marriage and motherhood has serious consequences in Japanese society, the most grave being the country’s declining birthrate.”

”I imagine that beneath the surface of my everyday environment is a world supernatural. I long to discover, like Alice, a doorway to this hidden plane, an exit from the ordinary. This daydream informs my attraction to Japan, a place I have lived and to which I will soon return, where existence is shaped by fantasy. There, young women especially use fantasy to envision other realities for themselves in response to rigid gender roles. Drawing from Japanese culture and aesthetics, I attempt to make work that seems not of our world. I use the cocoon as both object and environment, as a portal to the mysterious. Removed from ordinary time, the cocoon appears suspended in a state in which everything is transmutable.”


The most memorable part of my Plan process was installing my work in the Drury Gallery. Finally seeing my work come together as a show, after months and months of only being able to image and sketch, was incredible. It was the most exhausting 48-hour period of my life, but the payoff was huge.