Art

Call From The Past: Chiharu Shiota’s “Trace of Memory” at the Mattress Factory

Chiharu Shiota, Trace of Memory, 2013, yarn, desk, sewing machine, suitcases, wedding dress, bed, books, chairs (all photos by author)

Chiharu Shiota, Trace of Memory, 2013, yarn, desk, sewing machine, suitcases, wedding dress, bed, books, chairs (all photos by author)

For those filthy readers who have been playing close attention, it is no secret that I wear my love for my hometown Pittsburgh on my Iron City-soaked sleeve. While Pittsburgh is mostly known for its aggressive, nearly blind adoration for certain black and gold sports teams, Pittsburgh is also home to some incredible art spaces including the Mattress Factory, a museum of immersive installation art including Greer Lankton’s incredible final installation “It’s All About ME, Not You.”

While at the Mattress Factory this past weekend, I discovered an installation that recalled literature from Tennessee Williams to Charles Dickens to newer pop cultural surrealism from David Lynch to True DetectiveIn the Mattress Factory’s new building at 516 Sampsonia Way, artist Chiharu Shiota’s site-specific installation “Trace of Memory” converts the recently renovated 19th century row house into a haunting meditation on memory.

Born in Japan and currently living and working in Berlin, Shiota strikingly imbues the formerly abandoned house with a perceptible ghostly and melancholy atmosphere through her expert technique of weaving strands upon strands of black yarn throughout all three floors of the row house. Inspired by the traces left by former occupants of the building, Shiota tangles used found objects into these webs from books to chairs to an enormous stack of suitcases and even, a wedding dress that looks like it was left by Miss Havisham.

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Giving memory a form and a presence through her woven technique, Shiota’s installation and consequently the house appear haunted by the memories of the former occupants. An installation straight out of David Lynch’s fascination with memories and dreams, I half-expected the rabbits from Lynch’s Inland Empire to appear at any moment, performing a terrifying sitcom for an absent audience.

Walking through “Trace of Memory” is a surreal, mesmerizing and almost magical experience as Shiota’s yarn-weaving provides a physicality to the invisible and the intangible. Raising eerie and powerful questions through a tangle of thread, “Trace of Memory” forces the viewer to wonder what remains after we leave a space. Are our experiences and memories etched into our living spaces?

Taking inspiration from the silences embedded within “Trace of Memory,” I’m going to let the photographs do most of the work rather than jabber on and on as I usually do about art.

However, as Tennessee Williams writes in The Glass Menagerie, “In memory everything seems to happen to music.” And so in deference to our filth elder TW, dear reader, may I suggest viewing this photo essay to David Lynch’s The Air Is On Fire, which contains similar ghostly remnants of memories, stories and yes, dreams.

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