One of Japan's pre-eminent contemporary artists, Yasumasa Morimura is known for his gender-bending self- portraits reinterpreting canonical works of Western art history. His works combine aspects of painting, sculpture, set design, performance and photography, and often use humor to subvert revered icons.

Titled "A Requiem: Art on Top of the Battlefield," Morimura's current exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (till May 9) surveys the 20th century by re-enacting famous photographs of the men who defined that era's history, from dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Mao Zedong to artists including Joseph Beuys, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Several videos further expand the scope of the project, as in "Seasons of Passion/A Requiem: MISHIMA" (2006), in which Morimura re-enacts the speech that novelist Yukio Mishima gave on November 25, 1970, to Japan Self-Defense Forces servicemen shortly before committing ritual suicide after an aborted coup d'etat attempt. Morimura's version of the speech replaces patriotic vitriol with a harangue of the contemporary art community.

Including new works, the exhibition is the culmination of a four-year project that has been exhibited separately at venues worldwide, but is now presented in its entirety for the first time. The Japan Times met with Morimura to discuss his career and the inspiration for his works.