Monumental Intimacy: Installations by Chiharu Shiota

If there’s one thing I’m a total sucker for, it’s a large-scale art installation. Is that totally nerdy? If it is, that’s fine. I’ll deal with it. There is nothing more fun, more inspiring and more invigorating than getting lost in a brand-new, unknown, made-up world that’s full of surprises and leaves your jaw on the floor.

1_Washington_1I’ve never seen one of Chiharu Shiota’s installations in person but I can only imagine the impact her monumental, spiderwebbed rooms full of delicate string work would have on a girl. Shiota is most interested in exploring dualities with these installations. While the size and scale of the work is larger than life – impersonal and overwhelming, the subject matter remains personal and intimate. For example, most of the titles for these installations hinge on a sense of nostalgia and emotion – there’s Letters of Thanks, First House, Dialogues, and Presence in Absence. Thousands of letters suspended from wire, suitcases suspended from string, empty chairs caught in a tangle of crossed lines – they’re all these grand, object-driven mazes grounded in everyday, human detail.

Dialogues2When confronted with a Shiota installation, your immediate response is to try to sort out the mass – there’s so much to look at! But as you acclimate, you realize there’s only one thing to look at, whether it’s a piece of paper or a suitcase – it’s literally just one thing over and over again. It becomes smaller, more manageable the longer you stay in the piece and thus more private.

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