Chiharu Shiota is a Japanese performance and installation artist born in 1972 who was selected by her country to represent Japan in the recent Venice Biennale.
The ceilings and walls of the Japanese Pavillion at the Biennale are covered with a tightly woven web of red yarn from which over 180,000 keys are hanging. Shiota gathered these keys from people all over the globe, leaving boxes in museums to collect them as well as through a request on the internet. The space is anchored by two boats, parting the sea of keys and red, or perhaps catching its vivid, complex, and labyrinthine nets. Shiota says, “The boats symbolize two hands catching a rain of memories, opportunities, and hope. They seem to be moving forward floating calmly along a huge sea of global and individual human memory.”
Of this piece, The Key in the Hand, Shiota continues that, “Keys are familiar and very valuable things that protect important people and spaces in our lives. They also inspire us to open the door to unknown worlds. With these thoughts in mind, in this new installation I would like to use keys provided by the general public that are imbued with various recollections and memories that have accumulated over a long period of daily use. As I create the work in the space, the memories of everyone who provides me with their keys will overlap with my own memories for the first time. These overlapping memories will in turn combine with those of the people from all over the world who come to see the Biennale, giving them a chance to communicate in a new way and better understand each other’s feelings.”
Clearly Chiharu Shiota has unlocked— with keys, yarn, and boats in her hand— a stunning world of the web of interconnections, story, and memory.