Chiharu Shiota
Absent Bodies

Absent Bodies
, 2016
Installation view
Photography: Zan Wimberley Click to enlarge

For her inaugural exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Chiharu Shiota created Absent Bodies, an immersive new installation that embraced the architecture of the gallery. The hand-woven environment formed a microcosm where objects were suspended in time and space. Viewed through labyrinthine layers and planes of red thread, the presence of two chairs evokes a conversation, a relationship, between two beings, perhaps in the past or the future.

At the opposite end of the gallery are three sculptural objects State of Being (Books), 2016. The contrasting shift in scale, from the macro to the micro, offers a different entry and bodily connection to Shiota’s lyrical spaces. Chiharu Shiota has often used domestic elements in her installations: beds, shoes, suitcases, pianos, chairs, the traces of human life and parts of a deconstructed idea of home. The books in the works State of Being (Books) evoke the quest for and the circulation of knowledge.

In ‘An interview with Chiharu Shiota’, curator Andrea Jahn noted: ‘The artist constructs psychological spaces that confront us with our own unconscious, which takes on a form in the installations, like a dream that has become reality. The artist herself remains invisible in this place – she has freed herself of her role and leaves it at our disposal. Those who are familiar with her work understand her physical absence in the context of her installations as part of the concept. Shiota’s desire to question the identity of the artistic subject as well as the significance of the autonomous artwork itself is taken to its logical conclusion: if every representation of the body depicts an empty space that cannot be suffused with authenticity or identity, then the presence of the performer also can only function as an image. The actual artwork comes into being, according to Shiota’s philosophy, only when we give up our expectations of things that can dispense with the assignment of meanings. In this way, the relationship between the artistic subject and the artwork, between the observer and the performer, between inside and outside remains in constant flux, and every element of the installation – even the observers themselves, acknowledging their dependence, their entanglement in the space created by the artist – is an integral part of the artistic expression and its perception as well.

In conjunction with this exhibition, Chiharu Shiota was invited by the Melbourne Festival to create a monumental public work, The Home Within, in which the artist reveals another embodiment of the transient home. Woven again in her signature red thread, the 7 meter high ethereal structure travelled to significant locations across Melbourne for the duration of the festival in late 2017.

Chiharu Shiota

Absent Bodies
, 2016
Red yarn, wooden chairs
15 x 4.5 x 4.5 m (dimensions variable)

Chiharu Shiota

Skin
, 2016
Red thread on canvas
Triptych: 140 x 40 cm each; 140 x 2240 cm overall