Ever since its foundation, the Venice Art Biennale has been at the forefront in the research and promotion of new artistic trends.  Amongst the several art installations, one of the highlights of the 2015 biennale is the installation created by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota at the entrance of the Japan pavilion. Titled, “The Key in the Hand”, the installation is an elaborate entanglement of red wool and keys that dangle above two ancient looking boats.


“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”, Shiota explains.


The installation seeks to explore the notion of memory, using tens of thousands of keys collected from people across the globe in its realization.


The installation comprises of more than 50,000 keys collected from general public that are hung from a web of tightly interwoven strings. The web of threads turns the roof into a complex labyrinth of materials, forming an undulating path for viewers to travel beneath. Two rustic boats at the center of the space part the veil of keys, catching the net of interlaced metal and material as it passes over and permeates the entirety of the site.



Shiota prefers using 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.” Shiota


Photography by Sunhi Mang

+ Chiharu Shiota

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