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Spreading Threads of Experience, Chiharu Shiota Ensnares Gallery Spaces

<p>From floor to ceiling, wall to wall, Shiota weaves complex webs to entrap her emotions and beyond.</p>

by Kyuhee Baik
May 12 2011, 4:39pm

Osaka-born, Berlin-based performance and installation artist Chiharu Shiota ensnares walls, ceilings, and gallery floors with yards and yards of wool thread. She began this series in 1996 and has since been catapulted into the limelight by these intricate space interventions, dominated her stringed, complex webs like some sort of hyperactive black-widow spinster. She laboriously cross-knots her woven works so as to deter physical access into her spider-webbed spectacles. As she equates the threads with reflections of her own feelings, she sews her experiences and memories into monumental visual expressions. It seems, then, there’s a hint of hesitation—a willingness to show but a reluctance to share—refusing to permit people into her emotional entrapments. Emotional indeed, Shiota gets serious with her works, even sewing her own umbilical cord into one of her extravagant experiences. Since then, she’s used thread to ensconce cocooned objects like hospital beds with real women lying in them, large-scale wedding dresses, and even her sleeping self.

During Sleep (2002)

After The Dream (2011)

First staged in 2004 in Poland, then again in Germany and Japan, Dialogue from DNA (above) moves away from her personal experiences to those of others, exhibiting more than 500 pairs of donated shoes with each attached to a personal memory. Stringing these with red thread, she illustrates the individual paths of each person.

Shiota’s pictorial language speaks beyond thread, however, graduating into heavier mediums with beds, window frames, and even suitcases.

Flowing Water (2009)

Room Of Memory (2009)

Here, the artist collected frames from various demolition sites after the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall, with the intention of showing the spatial transfer of memory and perspective.

For Shiota, personal experience establishes her motives. Studying under performance art maverick, Marina Abramovic, much like her mentor, Shiota imbues her artistic contexts with actual experiences. One of her early works is perhaps still one of her most self-immersive projects, Try and Go Home (1998), which featured the artist, after fasting for four days, naked and smeared with mud, lying in a ditch—demonstrating the refuge of the womb and grave. The language in Shiota's pictorial performance installations is bold and delicate at the same time, evoking the poetic nuances embedded in individual experience.