Japan’s contribution to the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is an exhibition by artist Chiharu Shiota entitled The Key in the Hand.
The Key in the Hand, an installation that forges a link between a space made up of keys, yarn, and two boats, and photographs and videos of children, transcends national, cultural, linguistic, and political contexts, and emotionally arouses countless visitors from all over the world.
Keys are familiar and very valuable things that protect important people and spaces in our lives. They also inspire us to open the door to unknown worlds. With these thoughts in mind, in this new installation I would like to use keys provided by the general public that are imbued with various recollections and memories that have accumulated over a long period of daily use. As I create the work in the space, the memories of everyone who provides me with their keys will overlap with my own memories for the first time. These overlapping memories will in turn combine with those of the people from all over the world who come to see the biennale, giving them a chance to communicate in a new way and better understand each other’s feelings.
In this exhibition, Shiota will integrate the gallery, located on what is essentially the second floor, and the outdoor pilotis on the first floor of the Japanese Pavilion. Upon entering the gallery, viewers will find a space filled with red yarn. Attached to the end of each piece of yarn, suspended from the ceiling, will be a key. In our daily lives, keys protect valuable things like our houses, assets, and personal safety, and we use them while embracing them in the warmth of our hands.
By coming into contact with people’s warmth on a daily basis, the keys accumulate countless, multilayered memories that dwell within us. Then at a certain point we entrust the keys, packed with memories, to others who we trust to look after the things that are important to us.
In this work, Shiota will incorporate keys as a medium that conveys our true feelings. Moreover, she will place two boats on the floor beneath the yarn and the hanging keys. The boats symbolize two hands catching a rain of memories (i.e., countless keys) pouring down from the ceiling. While struggling and working with the hands, the two boats will move forward through a huge sea of memory as they collect individual memories.
Along with a large box located outside among the pilotis that will be used to display a photograph of a child holding a key in the palms of her hands, four monitors will show videos of small children talking about memories from before and immediately after they were born. By listening to them recounting memories from the time of their birth and looking at keys containing an accumulation of memories, we will experience two different phases of memory in the spaces. Prompted by the exhibition, we will discover memories contained within us, some of which will unfold and stay with us, and help us to form links with other people.
Through nstallation objects (the boat and the keys), the aim is to represent memories, opportunities and hope. The hanging old keys represent all these human conditions. They are held by a boat which symbolizes a hand wrapping and gathering each human being along with their important features. Visitors may feel as if walking around an ocean of memory. The keys are connected to each other by thousands of red strings. Keys are everyday objects that protect valuable things and by coming into contact with people’s warmth on a daily basis, the keys accumulate a web of memories that coexist within us. They are a medium that conveys our true feelings and they are connected to one another just as humans are. They even resemble the shape of a human body.
The pilotis are like a box holding the whole exhibition area above. The videos show different children explaining their first newborn memory. What the children were saying was a mix of fantasy and reality interpreted as the first memory of a human being. The pictures of children holding keys mean hope and opportunity. We are entitled to a world of opportunities and prosperous future and holding a key in our hands is the medium.
Red colour symbolizes the colour of blood and therefore human relationships connected to one another. When the red string inside a rope is visible, you can view the connection of society. The red line is invisible to the human’s eye but it is strongly connected and once we are able to glance this piece of red thread, we can observe all relationships as a whole. If an artist’s job is to affect the viewer emotionally, the yarn that controls their heart sometimes resembles words that express a connection between people. Relationships using knotted, tangled, cut, tied, or stretched yarn.
The boats symbolize two hands catching a rain of memories, opportunities and hope. They seem to be moving forward floating calmly along a huge sea of global and individual human memory.
When you hold a key, you own new opportunites and therefore your own future. The boats symbolize the hands holding 50 000 keys and each one has the shape of a human body. The upper part is the head, and the lower part, the body. Keys open and close doors to new chances. We are the guardians of our individual and global future and every human being has a place and a purpose in this World’s Future, whether it is to keep memories safe or to hope for a new beginning.
These past few years the Japan Pavilion presented works based on the earthquake and the Tsunami that followed, so I decided to convey not only past but also present and future. After facing the deaths of family members, the feeling of needing to keep something invaded me so I linked this feeling to all the possible meanings a key can have.
These boats carry and gather all those human features mentioned before that coexist on a daily basis within us and shape our own self. Humans are then connected to each other in this World by the red threads.
As visitors enter the japan pavilion, a red immersive expanse infills the building’s ceiling and walls, intertwining entrants within a maze of vibrantly colored yarn. ‘the key in hand’ by japanese artist chiharu shiota comprises more than 50,000 keys hanging from a cloud of tightly interwoven string.
The web of threads turns the roof into a complex and elaborate labyrinth of materials, forming an undulating path for which viewers to traverse beneath. two rustic boats at the center of the space part the veil of keys, catching the net of interlaced metal and material as it passes over and permeates the entirety of the site.
Berlin-resident artist Chiharu Shiota creates large-scale installations by stretching yarn across the exhibition space, and produces works out of materials that are filled with memories and traces of everyday life such as dresses, beds, shoes, and suitcases. She is notable for her skilled approach to the large installation format, which has become a special feature of the biennale in recent years.
But Shiota’s choice of materials and the spatial structure of her installations maintains a sense of preeminent beauty without losing any freshness or power, quietly permeating our minds and bodies. Shiota’s work, which transcends linguistic, cultural, and historical contexts as well as political and social circumstances, and deeply affects viewers from all over the world, has been presented and esteemed in approximately 200 exhibitions in Japan and other countries throughout the West, Middle East, Oceania, and Asia.
After being confronted with the deaths of several intimate friends and family in recent years, Shiota has converted these experiences into the lingua franca of pure and sublime art without averting her eyes from the reality that all human beings must face “life” and “death” but that each of us must do so individually. At times, Shiota’s work conveys a sense of the “darkness” that is inevitably contained in the “unknown world” associated with death and uncertainty.
Even today, four years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, it is conceivable that viewers from various countries visiting a large international exhibition like the Venice Biennale will be overwhelmed by the “dark” parts of her work due to its associations with a country that has suffered deep physical and spiritual wounds. In Shiota’s work, however, there is a powerful “light” of hope and spiritual brightness that dwells deep within the darkness. This is a light that is inherent not only in the tremendous anxiety that plagues Japanese people but in the precarious state of things all over the world.
The installation seeks to explore the notion of memory, using tens of thousands of keys collected from people across the globe in its realization. Keys are familiar and very valuable things that protect important people and spaces in our lives. they also inspire us to open the door to unknown worlds’ shiota explains.
In this new installation I would like to use keys provided by the general public that are imbued with various recollections and memories that have accumulated over a long period of daily use. as I create the work in the space, the memories of everyone who provides me with their keys will overlap with my own memories for the first time. these overlapping memories will in turn combine with those of the people from all over the world who come to see the biennale, giving them a chance to communicate in a new way and better understand each other’s feelings.
The Japanese pavilion houses Japan’s national representation during the Venice Biennale arts festivals. The pavilion, designed by Takamasa Yoshizaka, was built between 1955 and 1956.
Venice Biennale 2015
The 2015 Art Biennale closes a sort of trilogy that began with the exhibition curated by Bice Curiger in 2011, Illuminations, and continued with the Encyclopedic Palace of Massimiliano Gioni (2013). With All The World’s Futures, La Biennale continues its research on useful references for making aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” issue after the end of the avant-garde and “non-art” art.
Through the exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor, La Biennale returns to observe the relationship between art and the development of human, social and political reality, in the pressing of external forces and phenomena: the ways in which, that is, the tensions of the external world solicit the sensitivities, the vital and expressive energies of the artists, their desires, the motions of the soul (their inner song ).
La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
The relationship with the local community has been strengthened through Educational activities and guided visits, with the participation of a growing number of schools from the Veneto region and beyond. This spreads the creativity on the new generation (3,000 teachers and 30,000 pupils involved in 2014). These activities have been supported by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. A cooperation with Universities and research institutes making special tours and stays at the exhibitions has also been established. In the three years from 2012-2014, 227 universities (79 Italian and 148 international) have joined the Biennale Sessions project.
In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.