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Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota plucks the strands of our most distant memories

From Broadsheet, 11/10/16
by Bianca Winataputri

Chiharu Shiota’s Absent Bodies is like an enormous, red web left by what must be an enormous spider. The constellation of thread, like a million veins, envelops Anna Schwartz Gallery, wall to wall.

Through the mess of tangled threads you can see, faintly, two chairs.

“No one sits there but it is still in existence. It’s like we are looking at the past and our distant memories. We can see but we can never touch,” Shiota tells Broadsheet. “When talking about the past it is always connected to other people. I choose two chairs because humans cannot live alone.”

The Japanese-born, Germany-based artist is featured as part of the 2016 Melbourne Festival following her breakthrough at the 56th Venice Biennale’s Japanese pavilion.

Shiota is known for suspending objects with a web of threads to physicalises the absent, hollow structure of memories.

At the back of the gallery miniature books, written in German, float in individual, webbed cocoons.

Shiota explains these small installations are in conversation with the larger installation, saying, “Stories are what remain of memories.”

“The two absent chairs have a story. We can imagine that someone is sitting there, talking to each other. This is how I connect the chairs with these three installations. Everybody makes stories.”

As well as Absent Bodies, Shiota is also debuting another touring installation in Melbourne, The Home Within. Made also from red threads, her “house” structure was at Deakin Edge from October 6 to 9. It’s currently spending time at North Melbourne’s Meat Market and will move into the Melbourne Town Hall later this month.

Shiota says the installation, “explores the idea of home … wanting to come back home. To leave and then come back. Within and without.”

“Memories is something that exist in my mind, but I can never touch. I can never explain. That’s why I am interested to work with memories,” Shiota says, as she starts to weave a few dangling threads at the corner of the web.