This week saw the last days of an installation at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne by the internationally active artist Chiharu Shiota. This piece makes use of salvaged doors and stretched yarn and uses the entire gallery to create a space where the audience can be part of the artwork by walking into the space on the other side of the doors and experiencing it rather than just looking.
Unusually the gallery also encouraged photography by viewers – something that is usually prohibited. The explanation is that this is the only incarnation of this installation in the space – once dismantled it will never exist in this way again. This is particularly poignant when you look at the construction of the piece – a time-lapse film of its execution over a period of 10 days by 15 people – in that the intricacies of the way that the piece is created mean that an exact replica is impossible. Thus the intransigence of the piece also reminds me of work by other artists – Andy Goldsworthy for example, whose work, created entirely in and with nature is allowed to disintegrate naturally and only exists afterwards as a record in photographs.
Photographing this kind of work also helps you look at the piece in a different way – the act of manually focusing on the details of it make you realise the depth of the artwork. Interestingly it was noticeable that everyone who entered through the doors carefully closed them behind them – perhaps as a gesture of respect for the art, perhaps because we are just so English and well-behaved! Walking around and through the installation needed reflection and in myself created various feelings, the lighting and shadows created by the yarn on the floor was like being in a forest at night. The depths of the overlapping threads were like dark cobwebs, the feeling of being enclosed but also the space you are in. People walking through the tunnels became part of the image as they were partially obscured by denser areas. The threads being like fine sketch-marks on white paper, so when viewed from different angles and distances a light pattern or a darkness is created.
I visited the Towner with my partner and children; my daughter drew this image afterwards in the children’s drawing area where the Towner provide paper, materials and space for anyone to create their own work inspired by their visit. See Lyra’s blog entry which she called ‘Spindle Doors’. slategreyperkyfox.wordpress.com
The Towner exhibition ends on Sunday 5 January 2014. You can see more examples of Chiharo Shiota’s work here: www.chiharu-shiota.com