Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale

“The Key in the Hand”

Artist: Chiharu Shiota

Curator: Hitoshi Nakano

Commissioner: The Japan Foundation

Venue: Pavilion at Giardini

The gallery-scale installations of Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota often appear haunted: thick webs of yarn cloud familiar objects, obscuring edges and entangling viewers in an uncertain, weightless space. Her projects, informed by personal experiences of grief, elicit a recategorization of life and death.

For the Japanese pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, Shiota turns her established style to the subject of collective memory. The installation, titled “The Key in the Hand,” suspends a network of deep red yarn—each thread attached to a key—from the ceiling. The immense accumulation of intertwined keys, solicited from international donors on the artist’s website, imbues the space with psychic energy, focusing individual recollections into a kind of global shared memory. The rich symbolism of the key further inspires the viewer to follow Shiota’s conceptual path, emerging from collective tragedies and personal dramas into an unknown, optimistic future of novel connections and unspecified opportunities.

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