Chiharu Shiota’s installation “Rain of Memories” (2016) is a web of red thread, so large and so tightly woven that it overwhelmingly fills the space. Thousands of keys are strung throughout. Red is usually heralded as the color of love, passion, fury, blood, and violence. Something as small as a key can force a tapestry of all of these qualities to the surface of the consciousness, memories.
In Japanese culture, the red thread symbolizes the connection between a person and their true love, someone with whom they will impact the world. This visualization of the delicate, yet, powerful connection of love is so human and crosses cultural boundaries. The red thread found its way into the consciousness of British author Charlotte Bronte when Master Rochester confessed the depth of his affection for the namesake protagonist of her 1847 novel Jane Eyre. Fragile string, resilient when not stretched too thin, bears the weight of being saturated with every emotion that red, itself, speaks of. Unlike Master Rochester bemoaning the threat of the thread being stretched too thin across the ocean only to snap, Japanese myths assert that it cannot break.
The awe of “Rain of Memories,” bound in the keys and tangle of red string, comes from the sheer volume of such an emotional, universal chord.
The power of Shiota’s installations is in the depth of human experience. The artist casts powerfully emotional concepts into simple colors and objects, inspiring reverence and forming associations with the complex moments of life.
Shiota’s vast catalogue of installations speak of connection, or lack of. Shiota has also used black string in many works and utilized inanimate props, seemingly place-holders for humans and their emotional experiences. The three-part installation “Trace of life” (2008) is one of Shiota’s darker works. Longing, haunting interactions, and ultimately a universal red thread, take viewers through a range of emotions.
First, a white gown, possibly bridal or a child’s first communion dress, is surrounded by black string. The garment holds the significance of a child or a bride. Piles of string on the floor restrict her movement and alter her steps, cords collect and hang over her like a cloud. Few are connected to the tulle of her dress, like the taunting cruelty of intrusion. Small triggers, just enough to make you flinch.
“Trace of Life” also includes a room nearly bare of the signs of humanity, save for an empty chair, a messy desk, and just more than a dozen papers strewn on the floor. A somber web of black cords that fill the white room, while the chair faces tall windows like a person looking out. It is a position of reflection and contemplation. The sense of stillness is strong, the non-movement of being seated in a chair is weighted down by the black web. It feels like a scene of someone gazing out of those windows, frozen resignation and regret.
The third component of “Trace of Life” is on the outside of this building, where many red strings stretch from a single point, each connected to a different style of shoe. Outside of the rooms that are clouded by a dark web, there is connection among people in the world. The vast variety of shoes is symbolic of the variety of human beings, and they’re connection (the red threads) all descend from a single point in the sky. A universal compassion, a world-changing force of love, descends to meet each person. The people inside the building, the girl restricted by her trauma and the person gazing out of the window, could find hope and connection.
See more of Shiota’s work: chiharu-shiota.com
All images credited to Chihari-Shiota.com