Suffering in salt


I found the work of Motoi Yamamoto through a feed I follow. An image from his salt series was posted and I followed the link trail back to his site. Mr Yamamoto has been working in salt for about 16 years now. His work began after the death of his sister of brain cancer. According to information I have read salt holds an important place in Japanese culture as a symbol of purification. As such it is used in traditional funeral customs and customs surrounding death.

While this work is widely described as labyrinths, these intricate patterns Mr. Yamamoto creates are perhaps more accurately  described as mazes, the former having a single, yet convoluted path between beginning and end and the latter constructed to confuse and imprison those who enter them. One can walk a labyrinth and one can solves a maze as the goal and intention is singular to each.

In the patterns Mr. Yamamoto creates viewers have noted a similarity between the salt patterns and that of the brain and observing on the connection between that and the cause of his sisters death. This observation alone makes the images of broken or fragmenting mazes especially poignant and revealing.

As part of every installation Mr. Yamamoto creates he asked that the salt he uses be added to the ocean after the exhibition ends. This request stems from his interest in salt being an integral part of all human cultures and necessary for sustaining all life found on earth. As such Mr. Yamamoto enjoys the symbollism of salt acting to connect all life together.

I think this work is especially important today. With the disaster affecting an ever greater number of people with the threat of radiation poisoning salt is again a resource in demand. Table salt has become a scarce commodity in many countries neighboring Japan due to beliefs that it can protect the thyroid gland by preventing the absorption of radioactive iodine. At the same time the death toll from the earthquake continues to rise. In light of all this one can only hope that not too much salt will be needed.

To see more of Motoi Yamamoto work visit his site at: