Settled in Berlin since 1996, Chiharu Shiota might best be described as a natural successor to Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) and to an entire generation of feminist artists who came to prominence in the early 1970s. Clearly appreciable in her work is her interest in the human body as a space to act in, on and with: her performances are above all experiments exploring the bond between earth, the past and memory. She captures a range of telluric, evocative sentiments and rituals in audiovisual creations and drawings. In one of her trademark pursuits, Shiota takes everyday objects as a starting point for her artistic creation, making use of anything from broken windows and burnt-out pianos to scuffed, barely soled shoes, old clothes and second-hand suits. Depending on the way they are arranged and the state they are in, such material generates a disturbing feeling of aversion; at the same time the type of material, and its accompanying symbolism, conjure up memories and thoughts accumulated in the spectator. These objects hark back to experiences that can not be ignored or forgotten because they reappear at intervals throughout our life cycle. Shiota channels these concerns in installations in which a trawl of woollen threads is presented as the net destined to wrap, trap or unite the everyday objects she groups together. As these enigmatic, asphyxiating meshes take shape, the artist uses them to explore concepts of identity, emotional states and feelings of social and material belonging.
State of Being, Kimono Dress is a fine example of this type of work. Shiota describes it in the following terms: “I use dresses because for me they are like a second human skin. In this case you have a traditional Japanese kimono I found in Osaka. It is a silk hōmongi kimono (used for visits, popular as semi-formal dress for centuries, worn to weddings, births or the tea ceremony). Kimonos for weddings may only be used once, although the hōmongi can be worn on more occasions provided they are festive celebrations. Which means that this kimono has experienced so many happy moments. Its owners used this kimono for that and now it shares with us some of those magic times. When I made this I was thinking about the memories involved, imagining the memories there within, embraced amongst the threads of wool and silk”.
State of Being takes the spectator to a dream-like place where the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere induced by the woollen structure generates a state of anxiety. As in the cycle of life, in which it is impossible to say where the tangle of threads begins and ends, next to this “mesh of life” the hanging objects, paralysed in a particular space and time, are suspended like memories, like moments that float in the nebula of our thoughts. All this is highlighted by the second-hand clothing, articles with no body to dress, material symbols of life itself. This intertwining liberates a flash of energy to stimulate in the spectator a range of contradictory feelings, including safety and fear, fascination and displeasure.
Text: Nerea Fernández
Chiharu Shiota (Osaka, 1972)
State of Being, Kimono Dress, 2012
Instalation. 260 x 180 x 80 cm
Galería Nieves Fernández, Madrid