With hundreds of hours of patience and thousands of pounds of salt, Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto draws vast mazes on smooth floors.
Like painting with an hourglass, he lets salt flow from a plastic bottle normally used for machine oil, slowly drawing what he calls his “Labyrinths.”
Yamamoto began drawing with salt, a traditional Japanese symbol of mourning and purification, after his sister died of brain cancer more than a decade ago. His works convey a sense of eternity, while also being temporal in nature. Often, on completion of a showing observers participate in ceremoniously wiping away the delicately created lines. After his Cologne show, viewers were asked to re-distribute the salt where they wished, that it might contribute to new life.
A labyrinth may be defined as “a path with a purpose.” There is usually a beginning and an end point. A maze has intentional dead-ends and false starts. On the surface, it would appear that Yamamoto’s works fall into the category of a maze. However, he states that it is his wish that the viewers may use his labyrinth installations as a tool for meditation and an opportunity to reach some final point in their own thoughts.
“Drawing a labyrinth with salt is like following a trace of my memory. Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by. However, what I sought for was the way in which I could touch a precious moment in my memories which cannot be attained through pictures or writings. What I look for at the end of the act of drawing could be a feeling of touching a precious memory. During the course of drawing, I cannot tell it if will reach the essential point till its very end because lines are curved or cut against my intention. It depends not only on my psychological or physical condition, but also on the condition of the floor or the level of humidity. I always silently follow the trace, that is controlled as well as uncontrolled from the start point after I have completed it.” - Motoi Yamamoto
Salt is a ubiquitous commodity, as it is found in all of the oceans of the world, and virtually all cultures use some variant of it in their diet. What began as an exploration of the practices of Japanese death culture and its use of salt has now become a more philosophical enquiry into the importance of this substance to life on the planet. Yamamoto is interested in the interconnectedness of all living things and the fact that salt is something shared by all. For this reason, when his salt-works must be disassembled, he requests that the salt in his installation be returned to the ocean.
the salt of the earth -
[ORIGIN: with biblical allusion to Matt 5:13.] a person or group of people of great kindness, reliability, or honesty.