Video of Midori inviting queer sex workers for their totemic objects to include in the piece

InVocation Wall Text Artist Statement Root Division 2020

2019 – 2020


InVocation is about collective memory and the ritual of letting go. The curtain is a literal web of hemp rope commonly used in theater, as well as in sex work involving Shibari. 

A porousness dividing spaces in workers, performers and consumers boundaries. Emblematic of the actual backstage, changing rooms, and club or hotel bathrooms where sex workers prepare and transform into their performative work personae, the viewer is invited to walk into and experience that private space. 

In Kyoto, there is a ceremony of blessing and retiring broken hair combs. Many cities and towns in Japan have similar memorial rituals at temples and shrines for broken sewing needles which served the workers and the makers. The hair combs and sewing needles, essential tools of the courtesans of the Floating World, as well as various other sex workers, costume makers, and the like. The comb and the needles are imbued with spirit and animus magic and given proper memorial and blessings before being retired. In Midori’s InVocation, the rope monument is woven through out with totemic objects donated by queer sex workers (both former and current) – dearly held objects which served and accompanied the owners as they performed their labor and industry. 

(Originally commissioned for “On Our Backs” exhibtion, by Leslie Lohman Museum of Art. 2019 )

If you are a current / former sex workder with emotionally significant totemic objects from your labor that you would like to give a new life as part of future iterations of InVocation, please contact Midori at

Carol Queen writes about my sculpture, InVocation   

Invoking the Material World/s of Sex Work
by Carol Queen PhD 

At first my main connection with InVocation, Midori’s newest installation, involved scurrying around the house, trying to find panties I’d worn 20 years ago at, ahem, work. Could I lay my hands on an old vibrator? I’m an archivist, yes (some might call me a hoarder, but if that’s the case, where are those old vibrators?). But beyond my tendency to keep items imbued with history or meaning lies an artmaking project that seeks to honor a kind of work, and the tools, mementos, and leftovers of that work, with a specificity we rarely see.

Talking further about InVocation, Midori told me a story about one source of inspiration for the sculpture. As an adult she had visited a Shinto temple in Japan, the country where she lived as a child, on a ritual day devoted to those whose work involved sewing. Needles, the tools of that trade, may break or dull, but in the meantime they have made extraordinary garments—or ordinary ones; the needle works its magic all the same. In a spiritual system that invests items Westerners would call “inanimate” with sacred power, even spent and broken needles retained the charge built up in them as they passed through cloth, over and over, and created attire for symbolic moments or for the everyday. At the temple, the needles were honored with a ritual, then retired—each one sunk into a slab of soft tofu. 

I’ve been a pagan since childhood; this ritual resonates with me too, although Shinto is not my path and I’m not much of a seamstress. Honoring the tools that are imbued with power through our use of them—that’s a lovely acknowledgement that we accomplish what we do with help, that we have support as we create. 

To my eye, Midori’s work has always had a syncretic quality—fitting for an artist who grew up with a foot in two different cultures. She had an array of elements to pull from in assembling herself, perhaps, but still needed to create a self that could walk in both worlds. This split vision is at the heart of intersectional understanding, and of artmaking that draws from such fusion.

And these ideas are all relevant to InVocation’s subject, sex work, too. Sex workers need to pull varying elements to themselves to create their working personae and specialties. In InVocation, Midori does not only assemble the tools of the trade so an outsider can get a glimpse of the minutiae and power objects of the sex worker’s world—though if that were all she set out to accomplish, it would be a valuable antidote to the silencing, shaming, simplification and misrepresentation sex workers must abide. When she called for sex workers to release their objects to her, she asked for things the possessors wanted to give, were ready to let go of, had held rather than discarded. In a drawer, like my panties, or still in use until they were sent to Midori, these are traces of a workforce, and a kind of work, that so few understand: liable to be eroticized like a shimmering reflection by outsiders, or thought of as profane castoffs. Neither is what the elements of sex workers’ glamour actually are. And these items in particular are sent willingly to be reanimated into an artwork: it’s a ritual releasing. 

Please look at them, woven together so they complexify the work of eroticized labor, and remember that they have been the needle and thread that created a new and bold persona for someone; that got somebody’s rent paid; that allowed a client to feel seen in their desire; and that let the sexual secrets of this group of sex workers surround you in a kind of conversation that too rarely happens even when workers get together to share the specifics of their lives.  

Midori is honoring the labor and the craft of sex work in some of its unruly and unsung complexity, and weaving a reply to simplistic and single-visioned ideas about what sex work is. She’s bringing disparate sides of the work into one enveloping message. She’s a theorist, with rope the matrix that allows this hidden discourse to be shown to you. 

Carol Queen PhD 
Co-founder & Director, Center for Sex & Culture 
Author, Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture
San Francisco