Friday, April 22, 2011

Chiharu Shiota: Rooms of Memory

I came across Chiharu Shiota's installation and performance pieces last spring when a lot of things were changing--relationships, addresses, plans, etc--and they just made sense to me. Or, rather, they made no sense at all, and that was exactly what made sense to me. "In Silence" (2006) was the first piece I saw. It seems as though both the pianist and the audience were suddenly stricken by plague hundreds of years ago, their bodies and bones reduced to dust and blown to other places on the wind. They've left no trace, and the black woolen cords that overtake the scene become like spider-silk, filling the emptiness in a beautiful new economy of space. (At left: "No Title", Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art Kagawa, Japan, 2007)

The wool webs are a common thread (forgive the pun) throughout many of her installations, and though they don't appear in all of them, there's something analogous in her way of repeating form, whether that of a bed, a window frame, a suitcase, or a dress. It's armies marching in on all sides, it's counting sheep. It's singing to yourself when you're afraid and it's claustrophobia. (At right: "During Sleep", Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern, Switzerland, 2002)

(Above two images: "In Silence", 6th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, Korea, 2006)

The installations she does with window frames are so striking to me. I love that they're often structures in which the viewer can exist, little houses and hovels made entirely of escape routes. I also feel like the experience of them would be completely different depending on the light. If you entered her glass houses in a gallery space full of sunlight, it would feel like that secret house in the fairytale woods, a frozen moment, a memory. In the cloudy dark, it would be like an abandoned cathedral, all cool stone and hush. In the artificial florescent beasties with which most modern art galleries seem to be lit, I imagine the effect is...well...rather diluted.
(Above: "Room of Memory", 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, 2009)
You kinda get tangled in these pieces. Tangled, trapped, and then released.

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