Chiharu Shiota: Presence in Absence

Shiota Chiaru, Where Are We Going?, 2017/2019 White wool, wire, rope Dimensions variable Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Galarie Templon, Paris/Brussels Photo: Kioku Keizo Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiharu, Uncertain Journey, 2016/2019, Metal frame, red wool, Dimensions variable, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Blain | Southern,, London/Berlin/New York, Photo: Sunhi Mang, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiharu, Reflection of Space and Time, 2018
White dress, mirror, metal frame, Alcantara black thread, 280 × 300 × 400 cm
Commissioned by Alcantara S.p.A, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Photo: Sunhi Mang
Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiharu, Collecting Small Memories, 2019
Mixed media, Dimensions variable, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Photo: Sunhi Mang, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiaru, Where Are We Going?, 2017/2019, White wool, wire, rope, Dimensions variable
Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Galarie Templon, Paris/Brussels, Photo: Kioku Keizo, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiharu, Inside – Outside, 2009/2019, Old wooden window, Dimensions variable, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019, Courtesy: Kenji Taki Gallery, Nagoya/Tokyo, Photo: Sunhi Mang, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiharu,, Accumulation: Searching for the Destination 2014/2019
Suitcase, motor and red rope, Dimensions variable
Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Galarie Templon, Paris/Brussels
Photo: Kioku Keizo, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Shiota Chiharu, Out of My Body, 2019, Cowhide leather, bronze,Dimensions variable
Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Photo: Sunhi Mang
Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
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Art Gate

The most comprehensive survey of acclaimed artist Chiharu Shiota’s oeuvre is currently on view at Mori Art Museum.  Here is our review of The Soul Trembles, curated by Mami Kataoka a mesmerizing all-consuming journey through Shiota’s stellar career.

Text: Julia Tarasyuk
Images: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles (2019) Installation Photographs @ Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

Shiota Chiharu, Uncertain Journey, 2016/2019, Metal frame, red wool, Dimensions variable, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Blain | Southern,, London/Berlin/New York, Photo: Sunhi Mang, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

A giant room entangled in bright red threads emerging from boat-like structures greets astonished visitors at Chiharu Shiota’s largest-ever exhibition at Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. Her installation “Uncertain Journey” (2016) required 280 km of red wool yarn. The most comprehensive survey of Shiota’s oeuvre curated by Mami Kataoka and titled “The Soul Trembles” displays a vast array of works spanning through the twenty-five years of her artistic career. In addition to immersive large-scale installations created using the artist’s signature thread-weaving technique, the exhibition features lesser-known videos of early performances, drawings, objects and theatrical set design works. The exhibition marks the 308th show by the artist. With a pace of over twenty shows a year, Shiota is incredibly prolific in her desire to continue creating works questioning human existence, consciousness, relationships and purpose of life.

 

 

Shiota Chiharu, Reflection of Space and Time, 2018
White dress, mirror, metal frame, Alcantara black thread, 280 × 300 × 400 cm
Commissioned by Alcantara S.p.A, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Photo: Sunhi Mang
Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

Born in Osaka in 1972, Shiota has been based in Berlin for the last twenty years. She recalls that she started drawing before she could write. Drawings, some of which are included in the exhibition at Mori Art Museum, have remained akin to a personal diary for the artist until today. While studying painting at Seika University in Kyoto, Shiota did an exchange program at Canberra School of Art. There, in Australia, she decided to move away from two dimensional art and staged her first performance “Becoming Painting” (1994) in which she used her body as a canvas following an idea that came to her in a dream. Upon moving to Germany in 1996, Shiota continued her studies and took part in a workshop led by Marina Abramovich. The exhausting 5-day silent fasting ritual resulted in a series of performances and video works that undoubtedly shaped Chiharu Shiota as an artist. Abramovich was not very fond of Shiota’s threads and suggested she tried using her own body as a media. However the thread motif didn’t disappear from Shiota’s work, it transformed into myriads of connecting vessels that the artist wrapped around her body in mysterious ways (“Wall”, 2010).

 

 

Shiota Chiharu, Collecting Small Memories, 2019
Mixed media, Dimensions variable, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Photo: Sunhi Mang, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

The motif of threads came to life when Shiota started to experiment with “painting” spaces with a yarn. Shiota often says that threads are like human relations; they can be cut, intertwined and tangled. These vessels interconnect people. They represent an inherited DNA that we all possess connecting us to our homeland and to each other. Remarkably Shiota can communicate everything with these strings. She shares her emotions by inviting viewers to wonder through her cocoon-like spaces. It’s hard to describe the experience with words but the coziness of yarn is hardly providing a safe space. Whichever feelings her works awake for Shiota her art doesn’t exist until it’s activated by the viewers’ presence.

 

 

Shiota Chiaru, Where Are We Going?, 2017/2019, White wool, wire, rope, Dimensions variable
Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Galarie Templon, Paris/Brussels, Photo: Kioku Keizo, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

“Uncertain Journey” (2016), “Where are we going”(2017/2019), “In Silence” (2008) and other thread installations included in the exhibition are site-specific and made inside the venue, as is always the case with Shiota’s work. Artwork with the same title can never be reproduced in the exact same way. With every new exhibition Shiota creates a truly unique experience for the viewer. For her the process of making the work has a real performance element to it and like every performance it has an end. After an exhibition the yarn is cut and thrown away. In accordance with the artist wishes, it will only stay in people’s memories.

 

 

Shiota Chiharu, Inside – Outside, 2009/2019, Old wooden window, Dimensions variable, Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019, Courtesy: Kenji Taki Gallery, Nagoya/Tokyo, Photo: Sunhi Mang, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

Passing on memories is central to Shiota’s work. In her installations the emotional presence of real people is loud despite their physical absence. Shiota has been collecting antique objects for many years. Pieces of unknown ownership have become her favorite installation materials. Suitcases sourced by the artist in various flea markets around the world form part of her work “Accumulation – Searching for the Destination” (2016). Dresses, or the second skin as the artist refers to them, appear in “Reflection of Space and Time” (2018).  For “Inside-Outside” (2009) Shiota gathered discarded windows left after the demolition of buildings in Berlin. Not only do these windows represent a boundary dividing private spaces from the inside to the outside, but they also remind the viewer of the wall that once separated East and West Germany. Sometimes Shiota asks the public to help her collect materials, engaging people to become part of her work, with their belongings as well as their memories. For her celebrated installation “The key in hand”, which appeared at the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, Shiota collected over 1,800,000 keys out of which 50,000 have been used for the final artwork. The artist searches for her identity through the unidentified sourced material that stores so many intangible memories. “The Soul Trembles” puts on view her most recent collection of antique furniture and small objects (“Collecting small memories”, 2019). Exhibited with a stunning Tokyo cityscape in the backdrop the viewer can’t help but wonder where their souls are gone.

 

 

Shiota Chiharu,, Accumulation: Searching for the Destination 2014/2019
Suitcase, motor and red rope, Dimensions variable
Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Courtesy: Galarie Templon, Paris/Brussels
Photo: Kioku Keizo, Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

 

For this exhibition in Japan where Shiota’s artistic practice is perhaps less known than internationally, she wanted to create various spaces within the museum to encourage the viewer to question their concept of existence, their way of life and also to reflect on the past. As visitors meander from room to room the exhibition unfolds some of the artist’s most personal experiences, expanded into a language universal for everyone. A couple of years ago, and shortly after Chiharu Shiota was offered to do an exhibition at Mori Art Museum, she was diagnosed with cancer. This challenging time gave her a strong feeling of uncertainty, anxiety of not knowing the future that is often reflected in her work. While undergoing the surgery and treatment Shiota felt like every process was predetermined and her feelings were left out. She then turned her frustration into art and incorporated into her work brushes without hair, hospital beds and even fragments of limbs (“Out of my body”, 2019). In her own words, throughout the preparation for the exhibition her experience alongside death made her larger as a vessel. Isolated vessels and boats, navigating Chiharu Shiota’s oeuvre take everyone who has a chance to experience her work on a soul-searching journey to a destination where the universe and humanity are coming together.

 

 

Shiota Chiharu, Out of My Body, 2019, Cowhide leather, bronze,Dimensions variable
Installation view: Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019 Photo: Sunhi Mang
Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

 

Chiharu Shiota “The Soul Trembles”
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
June 20 – October 27, 2019

 

About the Artist

Born 1972 in Osaka Prefecture, currently based in Berlin. In 2008, Shiota received the Art Encouragement Prize from the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In addition to solo exhibitions held across the world including Art Gallery of South Australia (2018), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2018), Smithsonian Institution Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (2014), the Museum of Art, Kochi (2013), MIMOCA Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art (2012), and the National Museum of Art, Osaka (2008), she has participated in numerous international exhibitions such as the Biennale of Sydney (2016), the Kiev Biennale (2012), and the Yokohama Triennale (2001). In 2015, she represented Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition.

 

 


 

Julia Tarasyuk is an art consultant and art writer with over a decade of experience collaborating with museums, galleries and independent art projects in Russia, UK, France and Japan. In 2015 she started an online magazine Museeum.com and runs the platform as its editor-in-chief. Julia is currently based in Tokyo, where she organizes tailor-made art tours for various institutions, arts councils and private collectors and actively supports the exchange between the Japanese and international art scene. Julia is an author of “Art Tokyo” book published in Russia in 2018.

 

 

 

 
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