Berlin-based Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota has taken over the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s 18th-century Chapel with a gossamer web of musical memory.
Once the rehearsal space of Bretton Hall College’s drama studios, the Chapel has hosted countless secular and religious ceremonies, including weddings and music concerts, in which a hulking pipe organ (removed in the building’s refurbishment in 2014) played an instrumental role. Now serving as a converted gallery space, the building’s past lives are revived in Shiota’s quietly commanding installation, which opens to the public on 30 March.
Shiota’s The Key in Hand left a lasting impression at the 2015 Venice Biennale as a sea of red thread interlaced with keys in the Japanese pavilion. Beyond Time (2018) is a site-specific work that takes an equally commanding stance, materialising as an organic web of white string comprised of some 2,000 balls of yarn woven by the artist and a team of 10 assistants.
The nebulous form erupts out of a curious steel rendering of the now-absent instrument that appears illusory despite the hefty metal material, as if sketched in space.
‘It was important to give a physical shape to the loaded memories of this space, which is no white cube,’ says Shiota.
Recalling a childhood memory of her own, when at the age of nine she witnessed her neighbours’ house burn down – a ghostly skeleton of a grand piano emerging from the ashes – Shiota’s installation pays homage to the powerful silence of the instrument’s absence.
Simultaneously weightless and all-consuming, the mass of spritely string teases out this paradox of human memory, in which the negative space of an absent object can be more visceral than its presence.
Some 1,500 sheets of archival paper weave throughout the intricate web. Including handwritten musical scores from the 1960s, covers from memorial services, as well as a commensuration for the missing organ, these documents serve as evidence of the Chapel’s dense history.
Shiota’s web careens into the Chapel’s swooping nave, its dramatic pathway spreading throughout the light-filled arches of the building. The artist assembled the organic structure ‘improvisationally and top-down, with no real plan in mind,’ but the nuts and bolts of its mystic assembly up in the air.
The surreal project is at home in the sprawling 500-acre estate of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, once a luxurious single-family estate – a pleasure world featuring imported lions, tigers and 35-foot yachts. It has become a sprawling ‘gallery without walls’ featuring works by the likes of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, James Turrell and Andy Goldsworthy.
Adds Shiota of her addition: ‘I make music with my string.’
‘Chiharu Shiota: Beyond Time’ runs from 30 March until 2 Sep 2018 inside The Chapel at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
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