Maze of memories. The Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, fili di lana rossa, vecchie barche, vecchie chiavi.  Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Unmei no akai ito, the red thread of destiny, is the name given to an ancient folkloristic Chinese legend, soon propagated and successfully consigned in the land of the rising sun. According to the belief, a deity usually identified with Yue Lao, god of the moon and protector of wedding, ties an invisible red cord around the finger or the ankle of lovers destined to meet in a specified time in the future. Peculiarity of the wire, which binds the two lovers, regardless of time, space and circumstances, is to be immune to failure: it can stretch or tangle, but never break.

A maze of red threads wraps, voluptuously and at the same time with poetic intimacy, the viewer who enters the spaces created in 1956 and designed by Takamasa Yoshizaka, follower of Le Corbusier, of the Japan Pavilion at the Giardini Biennale, whose representation is this year headed by Chiharu Shiota, superb weaver of spectacular large-scale installations. The dense and intricate criss-cross creates an enveloping dimension, immersive, silently thick, sort of a modern cathedral not erected to a god, but to a deeply human experience that gives high spiritual value to existence: that of memory. The wires hanging from the ceiling, in fact, all end with keys, repositories of individual memories that overlapped with that of the artist and of donors – the keys have been collected at the request of Shiota by people around the world – become a collective memory, a spectacular universal encyclopedia to which are entrust dreams, hopes, frustrations, expectations of all humanity.

The keys assume an ancestral and antithetical meaning in the symbolism theorized by artist: familiar and precious objects which we rely to guard people and important spaces, become at the same time tools for a concrete and metaphorical opening to other realities, unknown universes, dimensions and cultures. To welcome the rain of keys – a diverse and composite galaxy resplendent in the chromatic contrast within the red threads – are two antique boats which, like hands, gather in their hollow individual memories in an elsewhere imaginary where they mingle with others, fulfilling the function attributed to a whole romantic tradition of sea voyage: the exploration, the discovery, the mix of stimuli and suggestions.

The reflection of the Japanese artist, based in Berlin, transcends the interior space of the Pavilion, invading even the exterior in which stand a large format photography with a little girl with a key in his palm, and four monitors that run video of children who, between laughter and confusion, reconstruct the memories related to the moments immediately preceding and following the year of their birth. The elements that shape the articulated iconographic universe of the artist, evidence her ability to communicate with different media, which while belonging to a clearly daily dimension and remaining easily recognizable in their outward appearance, seem to shed their functionality to assume an exquisitely symbolic and poetic value, highly emotional, connoting themselves as traces and memories of a life imbued with intense spirituality.

Japanese Pavilion of the 56. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte-la Biennale di Venezia.
Artist: Chiharu Shiota
Organization: The Japan Foundation
Padiglione del Giappone, Giardini della Biennale \\ Castello 1260
30122 Venezia
10-18 h, tuesday-sunday

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, fili di lana rossa, vecchie barche, vecchie chiavi. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, fili di lana rossa, vecchie barche, vecchie chiavi. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, fotografia. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, fotografia. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, particolare delle chiavi. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, particolare delle chiavi. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, particolare della barca. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, particolare della barca. Foto di Sunhi Mang, courtesy di Chiharu Shiota.

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Arianna Laurenti

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