Denshosha--Memory Keeper Chiharu Shiota Disembarks in Paris
The Key in the Hand, Japan Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015. Image courtesy of Galerie Templon.
The Galerie Templon in Paris is hosting an exhibition dedicated to Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota from May 20 through July 22, 2017. The performance and installation artist is known for her room-filling pieces that are at once monumental yet incredibly intricate, as if a giant spider has enveloped everything in its path in skeins of thread. Indeed, Shiota signature is quite literally tying various components of her work--often mundane items like keys, shoes, and dresses--together with red woven wool yarns, spinning intricate, ghostly webs beckoning for inspection and introspection. Shiota's pieces are art as theater--viewers become participants in the installations, themselves springboards for meditations on the constant tension between life and death. She has said in interviews that most of her work focuses on "the memory of absent things" and that rooms can possess memory of those no longer with us, recalling, in a way, the cognitive realism of Proust and his madeline in ? La Recherche du Temps Perdu.
Entitled, Destination, Shiota's current exhibition employs empty boats as an attempt to explore life's journeys, dreams, and how modern lifestyles have pushed humankind towards the unknown at an ever increasing pace. The show follows a theme Shiota explored at her other recent installation at the chic Parisian department store Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, where she suspended a fleet of spectral wooden boats like a massive chandelier over the store using 300,000 yards of woven white thread. (Check out the opening night here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwshqeh-k9s )
Shiota revisits the boat theme in Destination, where a fleet of eleven-foot boats surround a sixteen-foot vessel, the ensemble caught in a red sea of red yarn. "I have been using boats [in my artwork] since my exhibition at the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015," explained Shiota, who, like many artists, uses boats as symbols of travel and finding one's destination, though there is a slightly dark element to all this. If viewing the boats from below, as in the Bon Marché exhibit, the viewer becomes a drowning victim looking up at the hulls. Here, red yarn ensnares the boats, possibly preventing these vessels from arriving at their final destination. None of Shiota's boats carry passengers but perhaps, as the artist suggests, they carry spirits and memories of the dead.
Destination also suggests that, in this age of hyper-fast everything, perhaps we're getting tangled in the process, forgetting what harbor we're actually navigating towards, and that maybe we should all just slow down a little bit and enjoy the ride. "Though we may not know where we are heading, we can never stop," Shiota said. "Life is a journey of uncertainty and wonder, and the boats symbolize our dreams and hopes."
Image courtesy of Galerie Templon.