January 19 – March 9, 2023
After nearly a decade’s absence from the New York contemporary art scene, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota is returning with Signs of Life, a new exhibition featuring a spectacular site-specific installation and a series of previously unseen sculptures and drawings.
After a foundation degree in painting at Seika University in Kyoto, Chiharu Shiota chose to pursue her artistic studies in Berlin, focusing on performance. Her practice soon shifted towards site-specific installations. She skilfully weaves knotted threads to create fantastical scenes combining salvaged window frames, a piano, suitcases, books and used clothes. Bordering on drawing and sculpture, her fabulous ephemeral, immersive installations have become her signature. Since her impressive installation for the Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Bienniale in 2015, she has become one of the key figures on the international art scene and is regularly invited to show her work at museums worldwide.
In a hyper-connected world, Chiharu Shiota’s new exhibition questions the notion of the “web”, a living organism similar to the structures that make up the universe or the neurons our brains are built on. Created on-site over two weeks, a large-scale installation made of red threads symbolizes this permanent connection of information, collective memory and the world’s knowledge which cuts across cultures and continents. At the heart of the work are two arms, her own, placed on the ground. They are cast in bronze, palms facing up to the sky. “I always thought that if death took my body, I wouldn’t exist anymore,” explains the artist. “I’m now convinced that my spirit will continue to exist because there is more to me than a body. My consciousness is connected to everything around me and my art unfolds by way of people’s memory.”
The installation is followed by a series of sculptures. Enfolded at the centre of each one, as though frozen in place by the intertwined threads, are objects from daily life. “I feel that the objects we possess are like a third skin,” she says. “We accumulate these things and transpose our presence and our memory to them.” Often obsolete, weighed down by impenetrable histories, these objects — old suitcases, stained dolls, miniature pieces of furniture and tiny bottles — represent the treasures offered up by memory, to be seen but not touched.