Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1972, internationally recognized artist Chiharu Shiota now lives and works in Berlin. In much of her art, Shiota utilizes old, worn out items that spark an intrigue both about the history of the things themselves as well as about the meaning of the installation in which they are placed. In Breath of the Spirit, the artist ties tangled red yarn to 600 pairs of worn out shoes from people who no longer wanted them and makes them appear to walk down the building by themselves.
The installation immediately causes me to wonder who wore each pair of shoes, to consider where the objects came from, and to formulate stories about the journey of each individual and inanimate object. Through the use of these everyday, mundane items, Shiota is able to generate a certain connection between her viewers and the people who once wore the old shoes. According to the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Shiota’s work “simultaneously imparts a fear of death and the vigor of life through ordinary objects that we are completely accustomed to seeing–it is this ambiguity that makes the works so enthralling.”