I first came across Motoi Yamamoto‘s work during thesis research in school, and it’s still some of the work that I find myself thinking about out of the blue, even never having seen it in person. It’s the kind of work that transcends the artist him/herself, and doesn’t need to use an artist statement as a crutch. His work bears similarity to that of Andy Goldsworthy and Wolfgang Laib, but perhaps with the knowledge of the inspiration for his work, has a much sadder and poignant quality. He has been working with temporary salt installations for a long time, and one day I would really love to experience it up close. I also hope there are benches.
Concept (from his website)
The mainspring of my work is derived from the death of my sister from brain cancer at the age of 24 in the winter of 1994.
Since then, I have had the dilemma, in grief and surprise, of thinking about what I had and lost. I started making art works that reflected such feelings and continue it as if I were writing a diary.
Many of my works take the form of labyrinths with complicated patterns, ruined and abandoned staircases or too narrow life-size tunnels, and all these works are made with salt.
A common perception towards them is “nearly reachable, yet not quite” or “nearly conceivable, yet not quite”.
Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by. However, what I sought for was the way in which I could touch a precious moment in my memories which cannot be attainable through pictures or writings.
Reasons for using salt
Salt seems to possess a close relation with human life beyond time and space. Moreover, especially in Japan, it is indispensable in the death culture. After my sister’s death, what I began to do in order to accept this reality was examine how death was dealt with in the present social realm. I posed several related themes for myself such as brain death or terminal medical care and picked related materials accordingly. I then came to choose salt as a material for my work. This was when I started to focus on death customs in Japan. In the beginning, I was interested in the fact that salt is used in funerals or in its subtle transparency. But gradually I came to a point where the salt in my work might have been a part of some creature and supported their lives. Now I believe that salt enfolds the ﾒmemory of livesﾓ. I have thus had a special feeling since I started using it as a material.
Motoi’s more recent labyrinth work makes me think of House of Leaves, written by Mark Z. Danielewski: a must read for anyone interested in experimental, nontraditional fiction – also full of a permeating sense of despair and heart ache… er, and also headache, as text shrinks, grows, and writhes around in (appropriately) labyrinth form over the book’s 400+ pages. My head hurt just thinking about the writing and editing process for such an ambitious book.