Friday, April 30, 2010

Chiharu Shiota - One Place

Chiharu Shiota's installation One Place at Haunch of Venison is constructed from 400 windows from East Berlin. The enclosed spaces formed by the installation hint at the situation that formerly existed in East Berlin. The inhabitants were enclosed and shut off from family and friends on the other side of the Wall, always looking out towards that which was beyond their reach.
Stacked in towering layers they remind me of pictures at an exhibition, but with their stories missing - what has been seen from these windows? Who has looked longingly out? Or, did they give someone a sense of security, a place where they belonged?
The glass in windows allows light to enter a room but at the same time forms a protective barrier against the elements; wind, rain and snow are prevented from entering. However this protective barrier can also become a threat to safety; shards and splinters of glass from a broken window can inflict serious harm on the unwary.
I found it interesting to note how much clearer the view through the installation was where the glass was missing from the windows. By contrast some of the panes showed the accumulated grime of years of neglect, obscuring the view and begging the question what was being hidden and who made the marks in the dirt?
For me the most disturbing element of the installation was this window with its obscured glass (left), there were others, but it was only this one that bothered me. It seemed a much more solid barrier - No Entry - Keep Out - Don't look in here. Interestingly viewed from the 'inside' of the installation it lost its sinister feeling, perhaps because the opaqueness of the glass blended into the whiteness of the gallery walls.
This was the first time that I had seen one of Shiota's window installations and I found it one of the most impressive pieces of art that I had ever seen.

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