Perspectives: Chiharu Shiota
Japanese performance and installation artist Chiharu Shiota installs a monumental yet intimate work in the Sackler pavilion this summer. Haunted by the traces that the human body leaves behind, the work amasses personal memories of lost individuals and past moments through an accumulation of discarded shoes and notes collected by the artist. Visit the Sackler pavilion during museum hours between Monday, August 18, and Thursday, August 21, to see Shiota's progress on the installation.
Shiota studied at Kyoto Seika University, Canberra School of Art, and Berlin University of the Arts with Marina Abramovic and Rebecca Horn. Her work has been presented at the Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh, 2013), Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (United Kingdom, 2012), National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (2007), Neue Nationalgalerie (Berlin, 2006), and MoMA PS1 (New York City, 2003), as well as the Biennials in Venice, Fukuoka, and Yokohama. Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1972, Shiota currently lives and works in Berlin.
Xu Bing: Monkeys Grasping for the Moon
Monkeys Grasping for the Moon is a suspended sculpture designed specifically for the Sackler Gallery by Chinese artist Xu Bing (born 1955), as part of an October 2001 exhibition of his work titled Word Play: Contemporary Art by Xu Bing. The popular temporary display was re-created to permanently remain at the Sackler, with craftspeople from the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits Central working with Xu and Sackler staff to engineer and fabricate the complex artwork. Composed of twenty-one laminated wood pieces, each of which forms the word “monkey” in one of a dozen languages, the linked vertebrates flow from the sky-lit atrium through the Gallery’s stairwell down to the reflecting pool on the bottom level. A panel on every floor of the museum guides visitors through the represented languages, which include Indonesian, Urdu, Hebrew, and Braille. The work is based on a Chinese folktale in which a group of monkeys attempt to capture the moon. Linking arms and tails, they form a chain reaching down from the branch of a tree to the moon, only to discover that it is a shimmering reflection on the surface of a pool lying beneath them.
Xu Bing’s monumental sculpture is presented by the family of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Chiang Soong Mayling, 1898–2003) in commemoration of her historic visits to the Joint Session of Congress in 1943 and a memorable return to the U.S. Capitol in 1995.