2004 Naoko Usuki


@At a former nunnery in London, in the Galleria di Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan filled with tourists from all over the world, or in an underground station in Kwangju, Korea. These are places where peoples lives have been inscribed through prayer in days past as well as through daily activities in the present. These sites, seen as the interior spaces of an architecture or as an exterior ground, where Motoi Yamamoto has drawn labyrinths with salt entitled "Labyrinth," have shifted from private spaces such as the gallery space to more public spaces. Employing tons of salt, the labyrinths composed of fine patterns resemble the rock garden of Ryoan-Ji temple in Kyoto or a Tibetan mandala drawn with sand. The structures are varied, from one which filled 24? with a mass of salt as a backdrop through 10 hours of work per day over 4 days to a piece in the open space of the Galleria involving leaking raindrops in the pattern of the work. The work is represented through these different structures and appearances depending on the spaces where they appear, transforming any site into a calm ritualistic space.

@Yamamoto's creativity coincided with his personal experience of his younger sister's death through brain cancer. Since then, he has worked with salt, which seems to be indispensable in the death customs and culture of Japan, as seen in various death ceremonies and is the principle material implying the meaning of death. Drawing patterns with salt is, for the artist, like a voyage to the heart of memories that are fading away and transforming from time to time. No one, including the artist, can control the process of drawing, for the line is often affected by the working circumstances or climate (such as rough surfaces or humidity), in addition to his physical and mental conditions. Therefore often there are lines and corners which are not intended by the artist but realized through the entanglements of chance and inevitability. Finishing the process and reaffirming the difficulties in trying to approach the ultimate source of his memories, Yamamoto's gaze silently traces back to the origin of the labyrinth as if confirming "the distance between death and himself".

@The more he moves out to different stages and creates labyrinths in bigger scales, and the greater the memories of human existence beyond time and space which they contain, the more the salt, which was used for his personal reasons in the beginning, comes to be perceived as something representing the trace of all lives in the universe as if it were sublimated to a cosmological model wrapping all the memories of past and existing lives while acquiring an autonomous sense as an artwork and reinforcing its existential meanings. In other words, it could be fair to say that the salt, which Yamamoto employs as the material that bears what he calls the "memories of the creatures," could be seen as something connecting all the memories of countless numbers of lives, and the labyrinth renders itself as a kind of proto-type which lets those memories circulate. "Labyrinth" evokes an imperative truth for humankind that is also an annihilation of living creatures; paradoxically, but vividly, it lets us be aware of life. The labyrinth of life with its alluring transparency inspires and engenders an energy to flow towards viewers' bodies, releasing a positive aura.

Independent Curator
Naoko Usuki