Artist Collects 50,000 Keys Across the Globe for An Exhibition About Memories


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Within the 2015 Venice Art Biennale’s Japan Pavilion, artist Chiharu Shiota has amazed visitors with an extraordinarily immersive presentation. Using two boats, vibrant red yarn, a net of interlaced metal, and more than 50,000 unique used keys, Shiota created “The Key in the Hand,” an exhibition meant to inspire viewers to think about the importance of memories and the unknown. The display features the intertwined keys hanging over the boats on bright red yarn and onlookers are able to walk beneath the maze on a winding path.

The tens of thousands of keys were collected from individuals across the globe, helping to unite them in a common project. “Keys are familiar and very valuable things that protect important people and spaces in our lives. They also inspire us to open the door to unknown worlds. With these thoughts in mind, in this new installation I would like to use keys provided by the general public that are imbued with various recollections and memories that have accumulated over a long period of daily use. As I create the work in the space, the memories of everyone who provides me with their keys will overlap with my own memories for the first time. These overlapping memories will in turn combine with those of the people from all over the world who come to see the biennale, giving them a chance to communicate in a new way and better understand each other’s feelings,” explains Shiota in her initial message when asking the public to donate keys. 

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