Salt Sculptures
March 20, 2009 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Following the death of his sister to brain cancer, Motoi Yamamoto adopted salt as his primary artistic medium. In Japanese culture salt is not only a necessary element to sustain human life, but it is also a symbol of purification. He uses salt in loose form to create intricate labyrinth patterns on the gallery floor or in baked brick form to construct large interior structures. As with the labyrinths and unnavigable passageways, Motoi Yamamoto views his installations as exercises which are at once futile yet necessary to his healing.
posted by netbros (25 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I had to live in my own brain like that I think I'd explode. This guy is both really talented, and very, very introspective.
posted by Geekyblonde at 4:15 PM on March 20, 2009


Amazing.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2009


This is amazing, thank you. Are those labyrinths literally just loose salt, not glued down or fixed in any way? If so, I can't begin to understand the degree of focus it must take to create those patterns with such a consistent line. The maze/labyrinth distinction is interesting too...
posted by inire at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2009


inire, here's a video showing Motoi creating one of his labyrinths.
posted by netbros at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2009


Yikes... don't sneeze!
posted by dawiz at 4:41 PM on March 20, 2009


When you look at something this intense next to the photos of rusty industrial sites with the naked girl in them, well, THIS artist should be giving the talk on TED.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


As someone comments on the first link they remind me of Buddhist sand mandalas... wonder if they were an inspiration.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:01 PM on March 20, 2009


Wow.
posted by Artw at 5:04 PM on March 20, 2009


Who says exorcism has to be an ugly affair?

I bet he's never bothered by wandering spirits...
posted by yeloson at 5:06 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love this. Thanks for the post.
posted by everichon at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2009


I wonder if he ever gets cheeky and draws a inconspicuous dick or if he uses some of the salt to add flavor to his food.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:21 PM on March 20, 2009


I wonder if he ever gets cheeky and draws a inconspicuous dick...

This is what I think of when I hear the term 'salt lick'.
posted by troybob at 5:48 PM on March 20, 2009


Yamamoto did one of these pieces at my college when I was a senior there (in fact, it's the piece in the third link). You'll notice that his 'salt maze' is at the center of a larger circle- this was actually at the center of our library, a high-traffic area, and the photo is taken from one of the library's upper floors which overlook the space. It really is just loose salt, and many of us were very worried when he started. College of Charleston kids aren't the most respectful students on the planet, and it seemed just a matter of time before someone drew a penis in the middle of the whole thing when no one was looking. The labyrinth had this sacred aura to it, though, and even the party kids in their ugg boots and croakie sunglasses would kind of stare at it with respect at all hours of the day. On more than one occasion I witnessed loose papers from upper floors floating downwards, threatening the work in progress, only to see a frat guy or hipster with a terribly determined look on his face pluck it out of the air at the last minute. It was really a beautiful thing while it lasted.
posted by farishta at 6:17 PM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is astonishing and wonderful. But he's only human - he must make mistakes sometime, jostle the lines occasionally. When he does, how does he fix them without needing to wipe off huge chunks of the labyrinth?!

Seriously, guys, this is making my brain itch.
posted by bettafish at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2009


farishta, here is another video of Motoi at the College of Charleston.
posted by netbros at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2009


this is making my brain itch.

There is a whole genre of art that does that to me. It is any art that is dedicated to extreme precision, extreme monotony, extreme repetition. Other things that give me the same reaction: Tibetan salt mandalas, detailed mosaics, pointillism, those ancient Incan stone walls with razor-thin joints, that widescreen Tetris game from a couple of weeks ago, etc. I have an almost visceral reaction to them, and it is really not pleasant, to be honest. I mean, I respect the artists and craftspeople, but I just can't resist putting myself in their shoes and I realize I would literally go insane very quickly. Thanks for the post.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 PM on March 20, 2009


I just can't resist putting myself in their shoes and I realize I would literally go insane very quickly

For some people it's the opposite-- a way to deal with mental illness or pain. In high school I used to create large, finely detailed drawings that would take hours to complete. It was a kind of meditation for me.

To me, these salt mazes seem at once calming and deeply sad, but maybe that's just my own association of this kind of art with mental anguish.
posted by lolichka at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Japanese culture salt is not only a necessary element to sustain human life, but it is also a symbol of purification.

As it is in pretty much every other culture that has knowledge of it (salt, that is.) C.F. the purification/exorcism rights of the RC Church.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:59 PM on March 20, 2009


Small random objects.
posted by Mblue at 8:01 PM on March 20, 2009


'I bet he's never bothered by wandering spirits...

Vampires and witches can't get near him, either.
posted by crataegus at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2009


Thanks for posting this, netbros.
posted by carter at 9:18 PM on March 20, 2009


Incredible. I don't know if I want to cry, stare at it, or destroy it.

This is one of those artists that I instantly feel something like friendship with. He's put so much of himself into this and laid it out so openly and completely that it feels like he's letting me (us) know him, without having to know anything.
posted by cmoj at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2009


Making something like this, I would just die of frustration.
posted by debbie_ann at 5:34 PM on March 21, 2009


Wow. I can't imagine the pain that drives him to create such intricate masterpieces. Beautiful stuff, thanks for this netbros.
posted by parjanya at 12:00 AM on March 22, 2009


I did an installation with salt outlines once for a local art festival. For three straight days after work it was the most fun I had, as I perched in an unoccupied loft and dribbled out little rivulets of salt onto black velvet to make my designs. It was very meditative and the hours would just fly by. I didn't take a radio with me, and towards the end, I could almost do my designs by sound alone. Now, when I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of salt on velvet. That's the sound inside the walls of my head when I tune out everything else, the low sussurus of salt falling grain by grain onto a soft surface. However, all this mediation and inner peace was shattered on the night of the opening when I had to continually herd drunk revelers away from the piece before they waltzed through it. One drunk finally caught it while I was chatting with another (more respectful) attendee, and scattered the whole work across the room. I just turned off the lights and left after that, I guess I hadn't let go of my attachments quite as much as I had hoped...

When he does, how does he fix them without needing to wipe off huge chunks of the labyrinth?!

When I dd it I used a dustbuster type vaccume that I had modified with surgical tubing and duck tape to suck the air up a 1/4" pipe. I'm not sure if that's cheating or not.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:54 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


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