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Yamamoto's Elaborate Salt Labyrinths

"Labyrinth" is one of Motio Yamamoto's works on display at the Fondation Espace Ecureuil in Toulouse, France. This piece took 50 hours to create over the course of five days and used 2,200 pounds of salt. i i

"Labyrinth" is one of Motio Yamamoto's works on display at the Fondation Espace Ecureuil in Toulouse, France. This piece took 50 hours to create over the course of five days and used 2,200 pounds of salt. Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto hide caption

itoggle caption Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
"Labyrinth" is one of Motio Yamamoto's works on display at the Fondation Espace Ecureuil in Toulouse, France. This piece took 50 hours to create over the course of five days and used 2,200 pounds of salt.

"Labyrinth" is one of Motio Yamamoto's works on display at the Fondation Espace Ecureuil in Toulouse, France. This piece took 50 hours to create over the course of five days and used 2,200 pounds of salt.

Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto

Motoi Yamamoto is an incredibly patient man. His intricate salt labyrinths can take weeks to create and require a slow, steady hand, not to mention a tremendous amount of salt. The result is a beautifully detailed, if impermanent, exhibition.

Another of Motio Yamamoto's salt labyrinths in the Kunst-Station at the Jesuit Church of St Peter in Cologne, Germany.  After the exhibit closed, Yamamoto invited visitors to return the labyrinth's salt back to the sea. i i

Another of Motio Yamamoto's salt labyrinths in the Kunst-Station at the Jesuit Church of St Peter in Cologne, Germany. After the exhibit closed, Yamamoto invited visitors to return the labyrinth's salt back to the sea. Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto hide caption

itoggle caption Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
Another of Motio Yamamoto's salt labyrinths in the Kunst-Station at the Jesuit Church of St Peter in Cologne, Germany.  After the exhibit closed, Yamamoto invited visitors to return the labyrinth's salt back to the sea.

Another of Motio Yamamoto's salt labyrinths in the Kunst-Station at the Jesuit Church of St Peter in Cologne, Germany. After the exhibit closed, Yamamoto invited visitors to return the labyrinth's salt back to the sea.

Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto

When asked why he uses salt, Yamamoto cited its importance to humans. "Salt seems to possess a close relation with human life beyond time and space," he writes in an email. "Moreover, especially in Japan, it is indispensable in the death culture." Mourners in Japan are often sprinkled with salt after leaving a funeral in order to ward off evil.

The importance of salt in Japanese culture was also a bit more personal for Yamamoto. In 1994, his sister passed away at the age of 24 from brain cancer. In thinking about her and what he had lost, he began creating art that reflected his grief. His work takes the form of labyrinths and complex patterns, like cherry blossoms.

Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, Germany, July 2009. i i

Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, Germany, July 2009. Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto hide caption

itoggle caption Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, Germany, July 2009.

Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, Germany, July 2009.

Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, Germany, July 2009. i i
Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, Germany, July 2009.
Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
A detailed look at Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, July 2009. i i
Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
A detailed look at Motoi Yamamoto's "Cherry Blossom" installation at the Mikiko Sato Gallery in Hamburg, July 2009.
Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto

The patterns are meant to convey a sense of eternity. Yamamoto makes them by sprinkling salt on the floor with a plastic bottle used for machine oil. He starts at the back of an exhibit and slowly works his way forward, so as to avoid stepping on his creations. Some installations, like Yamamoto's current exhibition at the Fondation Espace Ecureuil in France, use upwards of 2,000 pounds of salt. That particular piece took over fifty hours to construct.

Motoi Yamamoto used hundreds of pounds of salt to create his labyrinth at the College of Charleston's Addlestone Library in Charleston, S.C. as part of an exhibit called "Forces of Nature". i i

Motoi Yamamoto used hundreds of pounds of salt to create his labyrinth at the College of Charleston's Addlestone Library in Charleston, S.C. as part of an exhibit called "Forces of Nature". Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto hide caption

itoggle caption Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
Motoi Yamamoto used hundreds of pounds of salt to create his labyrinth at the College of Charleston's Addlestone Library in Charleston, S.C. as part of an exhibit called "Forces of Nature".

Motoi Yamamoto used hundreds of pounds of salt to create his labyrinth at the College of Charleston's Addlestone Library in Charleston, S.C. as part of an exhibit called "Forces of Nature".

Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
A closer look at Motoi Yamamoto's salt labyrinth, part of the "Forces of Nature" exhibit  in Charleston, S.C. i i

A closer look at Motoi Yamamoto's salt labyrinth, part of the "Forces of Nature" exhibit in Charleston, S.C. Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto hide caption

itoggle caption Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto
A closer look at Motoi Yamamoto's salt labyrinth, part of the "Forces of Nature" exhibit  in Charleston, S.C.

A closer look at Motoi Yamamoto's salt labyrinth, part of the "Forces of Nature" exhibit in Charleston, S.C.

Stefan Worring/Motoi Yamamoto

When a particular exhibition finally ends, Yamamoto asks that the salt be returned to the ocean. He says he likes to think the salt in his work might have, at one time, been part of some creature and supported its existence. "I believe that salt enfolds the memory of lives," he writes.

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