Chiharu Shiota’s Letter to the World

Berlin-based artist Chiharu Shiota is known for her immersive installations that centre on themes of human connection and relationships. As the pandemic has changed the way we approach these parts of life, so has Shiota. Her new installation “I Hope” creates human connection in a metaphorical way rather than physical. Displayed in the nave of St. Agnes at Berlin’s König Galerie, “I Hope” is a collection of 10,000 letters from people around the world. Shiota asked that participants write out their hopes for the future in order to construct a space that will reignite humanity’s optimism and aspirations. 

Each person’s hopes are connected by millions of ruby red strings, suspended in the air like a flock of birds. The overwhelming sea of crimson creates an intimate and warm environment that is a signature element in Shiota’s works. The use of red symbolizes the inside of a body, the most personal and vulnerable part of oneself. Shiota’s installations mirror the complex and fragile systems in the human body, digging into the deeper parts of the human experience. The overall feeling that Shiota wants to convey is “existence in the absence”. While no one is physically present, traces of human life are held in the objects. Each letter is a glimpse into a complex being with a vivid and meaningful life story.

Many of Shiota’s works incorporate performance and body art, and this installation is no exception. After being told that the public could not experience the art because of COVID regulations, Shiota gathered musicians, dancers, and other artists to perform in the empty installation where it was streamed online. The movement and sound of the performances add an additional layer of emotion and engagement, amplifying Shiota’s theme of connection. Her installation is a reminder that although many feel isolated, we are all connected by the complexity and depth of our experiences.