Chiharu Shiota. Connected to Life
Installation view of Chiharu Shiota's »Connected to Life«. On view are several hospital bed frames hanging from the ceiling. Red liquid flows through transparent tubes on the beds.
Wed, 17.03.2021 – Sun, 11.07.2021

The best art can express in one statement a visual sign that characterizes a specific state of time. The installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota »Connected to Life« – »in times of death, as I would like to add« (Peter Weibel) – is such an artwork.

A chain of beds in the foyer of the ZKM | Karlsruhe, floating through the air, recalls the shocking pictures of hospital corridors. These images of human vulnerability and misery call for a memorial dedicated to the suffering and lethal victims of the Covid-19 virus, but equally to the sacrifice of all those in hospitals and care facilities who are willing to risk their health and lives to save the lives of others. The red color in the plastic tubes calls to mind the lifelines of blood and oxygen. The installation also expresses the hope that human empathy and human science can help us to escape the current pandemic and its consequences. 

The impact of the pandemic on public life, private interactions, and the cultural sector is tangible. Closed museums, theaters, concert halls without visitors, self-employed people wait for financial support and fight for their very existence. The pandemic has again brought to light the deficits in the health system, and hospitals globally are working at the limits of their capacity. The death toll is increasing daily, and new mutations make the virus harder to contain. The entrance halls of cultural institutions such as the ZKM are usually a place of encounter, of exchange, where visitors, students, employees, school classes and artists mingle and meet. Without the current pandemic they would be buzzing with life – now they are silent. With her ability to combine in her works fear and softness, monumental and intimate, the acclaimed Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota has created the large-scale installation »Connected to Life« for the ZKM foyer. The installation consists of more than 50 hanging beds that cascade from the ceiling to the floor. The flow of life, which suddenly came to an end for so many because of the Corona virus with its many deaths, is present in the installation through the blood flowing through the tubes just as blood flows through the human body. Reminding us metaphorically that »the world today is a hospital« (Peter Weibel), the installation conveys a lightness that veils the weight of the subject.

Chiharu Shiota’s inspiration often emerges from a personal experience or emotion, which she expands into universal human concerns such as life, death, and relationships. She has redefined concepts such as memory and consciousness by collecting ordinary objects like shoes, keys, beds, chairs, and dresses, and engulfing them in immense structures of threads. She explores this sensation of »a presence in the absence« with her installations, and presents intangible emotions in her sculptures, drawings, performance videos, photographs, and canvases. In 2008, she was awarded »The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Art Encouragement Prize for New Artists« in Japan. Her work has been exhibited at international institutions worldwide including at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, NZ (2020); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, JP (2019); Gropius Bau, Berlin, DE (2019); Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, AU (2018); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (2018); Power Station of Art, Shanghai, CN (2017); K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, DE (2015) among others. In 2015, Shiota was chosen to represent Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale, IT. As part of The Bayreuth Festival 2021 (25.07. – 25.08.2021) and the series »Diskurs Bayreuth«, the artist received a commission for an installation »Götterdämmerung« in the Festival Park, Bayreuth, DE. The artist, born 1972 in Osaka, Japan, currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Credits
Artist Team

Studio Chiharu Shiota (Tomoko Fujimura, Julia Strebelow)

Project Management
Jessica Menger

Technical Project Management
Jan Gerigk

Exhibition Setup
ZKM | Museum and Exhibition Technical Services

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

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