Chiharu Shiota 'Connected to Life'
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
The best art can express in one statement a visual sign that characterizes a specific state of time. The installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota 'Connected to Life' – 'in times of death, as I would like to add' (Peter Weibel) – is such an artwork.
A chain of beds in the foyer of the ZKM | Karlsruhe, floating through the air, recalls the shocking pictures of hospital corridors. These images of human vulnerability and misery call for a memorial dedicated to the suffering and lethal victims of the Covid-19 virus, but equally to the sacrifice of all those in hospitals and care facilities who are willing to risk their health and lives to save the lives of others. The red color in the plastic tubes calls to mind the lifelines of blood and oxygen. The installation also expresses the hope that human empathy and human science can help us to escape the current pandemic and its consequences.
The impact of the pandemic on public life, private interactions, and the cultural sector is tangible. Closed museums, theaters, concert halls without visitors, self-employed people wait for financial support and fight for their very existence. The pandemic has again brought to light the deficits in the health system, and hospitals globally are working at the limits of their capacity. The death toll is increasing daily, and new mutations make the virus harder to contain. The entrance halls of cultural institutions such as the ZKM are usually a place of encounter, of exchange, where visitors, students, employees, school classes and artists mingle and meet. Without the current pandemic they would be buzzing with life – now they are silent. With her ability to combine in her works fear and softness, monumental and intimate, the acclaimed Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota has created the large-scale installation 'Connected to Life' for the ZKM foyer. The installation consists of more than 50 hanging beds that cascade from the ceiling to the floor. The flow of life, which suddenly came to an end for so many because of the Corona virus with its many deaths, is present in the installation through the blood flowing through the tubes just as blood flows through the human body. Reminding us metaphorically that 'the world today is a hospital' (Peter Weibel), the installation conveys a lightness that veils the weight of the subject.