The key in the hand – Chiharu Shiota

Memory is an odd function within the human psyche.  It’s part of what sets us away from the rest of the animal kingdom, as we intrinsically link memory with emotion.  We can recall periods of time which make us happy, sad, elated, deflated… we can recount the memories to others and we can also place a meaningful thought in to inanimate objects.  That ring someone you love brought you, the necklace your great aunt left you in her will, each time you look at the object or touch it you can recount a moment in time that touched you in relation to that object.

Chiharu Shiota uses this theory to bring to life her epic installation of The key in the hand.  This was displayed in the Japan Pavilion of La Biennale di Venice.  The installation itself took up a floor and outdoor areas.  Red yarn woven across the ceiling with keys which were collected from people all over the world are hung like talisman.  Two boats have been placed in the room, the keys cascading in to them.

Along with the stringed keys and boats, photographs of children holding a key in the palm of their hands were placed in the outdoor area.  A video of children talking about memories also placed as audiences viewed the installation.

It’s quite easy for someone to look at this and feel confused.  Especially if you are the literal type.  What have the boats got to do with the price of cheese I hear you ask.  Well the boats symbolise a few things for Shiota.  Firstly they symbolise hands, catching the keys which dangle above them.  They are also a vessel in which a person can travel through the sea of memories.  Boats have a dream like quality and have very strong links to moving between the other worlds, if we think of the river Styx or the river of dead (Sal-no-kawara). 

The keys are Shiota’s representation of memories, as she has taken an everyday object that every single person has in some form.  Keys protect our valuables such as houses, items we keep in safes, locked diaries (If you’re the type to keep a secret diary).  They are cared with you every day and through the touch and travel with its owner a key gathers all the memories that the person obtains.  Keys also open doors, doors to opportunities and new experiences. 

When you combine all the elements which Shiota brings together and walking under the sea of red yarn, with children talking of their own memories it is difficult to not recount some of your own.  The majestic dream like representation giving the audience a unique and very personal experience.  

We should not forget the roots of this artist in this, the boats typical of the Japanese culture, reminding the viewer of the history of a country which has gone through hard and devastating times.

Shiota is an expert in large scale installations and more of her work can be viewed here

But for now, enjoy some more shots of the key in the hand, and maybe let me know how this makes you feel in the comments.


One thought on “The key in the hand – Chiharu Shiota

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul

The Devil's Playground

The journey through mental health by a sardonic soul

Fort of melancholy

Art & Photography

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Memoirs of Miss Salt...........

Memories of past and present antics!

A Voice in the Dark

An Independent film company

Rich Pieces

Obsessed with film since 1982

BENLEANDER_Design Studio

Branded Storytelling and Visual Design

Big Art Theory Blog

a place where art meets literature in a way unseen before

Zhiguai Translations

Classical Chinese tales of the strange and anomalous, translated (roughly) by Geoff Humble.

Bitchin’ in the Kitchen

..because the thoughts that fall, kicking and screaming from my head need a safe place to land..


MarkovichUniverse AT

Finding French Charming

Finding True Love.. Even After Forty

My expressions

unexpressed thoughts

Channel Zero Archives

Analysis, images, meta & more, celebrating the surreal horror classic, currently streaming on Shudder

Quaint Revival

quirks, quips & photo clicks

It's Turpintime!

Stuff & Bits For The Muddled and Addled.

Things that happened on this date in history. Probably.

Eerie Unsolved

A Mix-Up of Mysteries, Conspiracie and All Things Spooky!

The Battles of Frankie

The failings and anecdotes of an average Aussie woman

The Indy Diarist

A Day in the Life

Leggings & Tea

Books. Art. Life.


Tiling.Renovation. Restoration.Photography

High Lumen

lighting design blog

Lady with Black Lipstick

Hopeless romantic speaking her thoughts.


This is the page where I will share my thoughts about football, my memories and funny stories.

The Latent Being

Believer of Freedom of Mind


A panorama is defined as an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer. My panorama includes a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts waiting to be typed out. Welcome to my panorama.

Marina Baker

marketing, social media, & business development

Chef Dave, Esq.

Lawyer by trade -- Cook by passion

Dr. Eric Perry’s Blog

Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

Cryssy’s Blog

Loving YOU without the Mask!


just a regular human trying to survive in the city


Your Source For The Coolest Science Stories

Amdall Gallery

Artwork, data analysis, and other projects by Jon

The Planet According to Dom

Where humour and adventure collide

O' Canada

Reflections on Canadian Culture From Below the Border

%d bloggers like this: