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Rebirth and Regeneration: Salt of the Art

Motoi Yamamoto has created numerous art installations around the world during the past several years using only salt.


Ever since he lost his sister to cancer, Yamamoto has been exploring different mediums of expression to overcome his sorrow. One day, he thought of using salt, which symbolizes purification in Japanese culture -- it is even used as a part of funeral ceremonies.


His exhibition, Meikyu (Labyrinth), took 250 kilograms (more than 500 pounds) of salt to complete. He worked meticulously for 10-20 hours a day to finish this large installation piece. Though its size is very large and could appear overwhelming, it gives off an air of calm tranquility.

Salt has very special meanings for Japanese. For example, you will see Sumo wrestlers throw salt before the match. In ancient times, Japanese purified themselves by dipping in the sea, and that ritual evolved into using salt for purification or cleansing of the spirit—-and to ward off evil spirits. Japanese believe that salt is essential for life energy, and it is considered a symbol of life. Salt contents in body fluid are considered to be similar to that of seawater, and many cultures feel that this mirrors a belief that life came from the ocean.

On the last day of his exhibition, visitors are asked to help in breaking down the installation, collecting the salt in a bag and encouraged to spread it in their chosen sea. This helps complete the cycle of life.

Yamamoto used to feel sad about the end of show. But, once this ritual to visit the beach with people who experienced his art started, he now appreciates the symbolism, and he can smile on the last day.

We look forward to seeing his more of his ever-evolving works of art.