Chiharu Shiota’s Uncertain Journey, on view at Blain|Southern Berlin through the 12th of November, is an awe-inspiring meditation on memory, fate, and belonging. Evocative and beautiful, this installation fills the gallery’s main atrium with a swarming mass of red yarn that creeps up the walls and envelops the viewer in a network of red. Entering into the space, one is swept up in a ghostly web that spreads between the forms of skeletal boats. Shiota is known for her immersive installations, such as The Key in the Hand (2015), in which she creates new visual planes as if she were painting in mid-air. The artist has created this site-specific installation in Berlin eight years after she last exhibited in her home city, reprising a body of work that earned her impressive attention at last year’s Venice Biennale.
The blood-red yarn filling Blain Southern’s main gallery evokes a range of suggestions, from mapping to the interior networks of the body, while the boat frames scattered around the floor serve as anchor points for the yarn to wind throughout the space, creating pockets of space between these structures, and a system of tangled red space that seems at once chaotic and deeply consider. The installation can also be viewed from above, in the gallery’s second-floor mezzanine, providing an elegant demonstration of the power of distance. The surface of red yard reveals none of the dense disorientations or nuanced interactions with each object installed in the gallery space below.
Shiota’s exploration of space, form, and the limits of perception continues in the second-floor gallery, where a series of free-standing, sculptural forms are on view. Works on canvas speak to the artist’s background in painting, which she used as the framework for expanding into thread works, operating with an intention of pushing the medium’s limits. Shiota has forged a type of three-dimensional painting as a result, liberating the image from the canvas, while allowing the more narrative elements of her work, and its massive dimensions, to invite personal interactions with the viewer. In the upstairs space, these motifs are echoed in more self-contained forms.
In conversation with Blain Southern’s Director of Exhibitions, Craig Burnett, Shiota refers to the sense of the infinite harnessed in this work: “our life is a trip without a destination, we don’t know where we’re going, and it’s easy to say the end is death, but that’s too easy for me. I wanted to emphasize this feeling of traveling with nowhere to go.” To be sure, in Uncertain Journey Chiharu Shiota succeeds in harnessing this infinite potential for connection and expansion contained within the limits of human life.
The exhibition is on view through November 12th.
— A. Corrigan
Exhibition Page [Blain Southern Berlin]