Chiharu Shiota performs life and death through art, by entangling countless red, white and black threads together with common objects, and creates piece and piece of large-scale installation art. Timeless, reality-transcending, making the audience forget their own self for a bit, stay in a world just like unreal. Shiota hopes the audience could understand and feel what time, memory, emotions and souls meant to her, and her interpretation to life; but also to rethink the meaning of life.

Seeking the “existential value” in 3D art

Chiharu Shiota is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work encompasses performance, videos, paintings and installation art. She held numerous exhibitions in art galleries and museums, and also participated in the 56th Venice Biennale as a representative of Japan. Began with painting, she was once so lost that she couldn't find her existence, then decided to move away from painting and continued her studies with Marina Abramovic, the godmother of performance art, Shiota soon became an installation artist.

“Existence” has always been the artistic theme of Chiharu Shiota. It is important to note that the time when she got invited to hold an exhibition by the Mori Art Museum was the time she suffered from cancer again after 12 years. Fighting with death, facing the endless pain and fear, she wondered what it means to be alive, is death the final destination of us all?

Old objects symbolises “Absence” but recreates the scene of “existence”


Although life is limited, Chiharu Shiota believes our spirit and soul will always exist even if the body is dead. With this belief, she is fascinated in recreating the traces of life, bringing out the message of how uncertain life is with threads.

Representing life and blood with red threads, white thread symbolises eternal and purity, but also makes use of the black threads to represent loneliness and silence as the main colour tone of her installation art. Entangling the threads with symbolic items such as boats, dresses, toys, keys, chairs, etc., and old objects together, giving out emotional and thought-provoking feelings.


Loneliness is inherent, so is destiny, it's inevitable; and soul, it has a mysterious but wonderful connection with the universe, that forms the bond between people and people, this is how we meet each other. Things rise and fall, you might have to step on the journey alone.


Association is a part of “existence”, in which the chair represents the existence of human beings and the red threads symbolise the constant intertwine of blood and life, reappearing the moment all beings meet in the same dimension.


Keys are necessary for us, keeping the precious people, memory and objects well and safe; but also unlocking the door of “fear”, we will have to face the “vanishing past” and the “unknown future”.

The tiny little toys represent the moments of life, connecting the fragmented family memories bit by bit with red threads, reappearing the subtle relationships between people.

Our understanding and recognition of a piano is just for playing, but what about a burned and silenced piano? Is it still a piano? The black threads that symbolizes silence and loneliness have intertwined ties to the chair and the silent piano together. Perhaps, it might be silenced, but it doesn't mean there is no listener.

Receiving cancer treatment and preparing for the solo exhibition at the Mori Art Museum at the same time, Chiharu Shiota was totally exhausted both physically and mentally. The crumbling red threads reflect the weariness of her physical and mental status, and the body sculptures on the floor are representing how painful the artist was, as she was suffering from cancer and the disease has torn her apart.

Art is the remedy of Chiharu Shiota

As Chiharu Shiota has stated in numerous interviews that she never really understands what she is searching for and why she feels so empty deep inside. In fact, she got her own value already since she has become an artist, creating spiritual and poetic works in a world of nothingness.

Hovering between life and death, Chiharu Shiota sees death as a new beginning. “Existence” is precious, creating art cannot fulfil her, only if her works could reach people's hearts. It is a remedy for her. The artist did achieve what she wanted to achieve, more than 600,000 people visited her solo exhibition in Mori Art Museum, took the journey to her soul and experienced her life as an artist with Chiharu Shiota, rethinking the meaning of life once again. 

#塩田千春 #ChiharuShiota #日本當代藝術 #裝置藝術

圖片資料:Artnet, Designboom, Chiharu Shiota, The Talks

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