motoi yamamoto: return to the sea or ‘floating garden’
laband art gallery, loyola marymount university
on now until december 8th, 2012



designboom has visited the laband art gallery of loyola marymount university in los angeles, california to experience ‘floating garden’ the most recent salt-formed installation by japanese artist motoi yamamoto. we were also able to catch up with the artist to learn more about his process and concepts exercised when working with his preferred granular medium.



designboom (DB) : please tell me a bit more about your most recent salt project. how long do you plan to focus on building this piece?


motoi yamamoto (MY): I work ten hours on a day. the making are 11 days.

floating garden: a salt sculpture by motoi yamamoto
motoi yamamoto building the installation on the floor of laband gallery
images by jon rou



DB: how do you choose your themes or subjects?


MY: the main concepts of my work are from the death of my sister from brain cancer at the age of 24 in the winter of 1994. since then, I have had the dilemma, in grief and surprise, of thinking about what I had and lost. I started making art works that reflected such feelings and continue it as if I were writing a diary. many of my works take the form of labyrinths with complicated patterns, ruined and abandoned staircases or too narrow life-size tunnels, and all these works are made with salt. a common perception towards them is ‘nearly reachable, yet not quite’ or ‘nearly conceivable,  yet not quite’. 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 attainable through pictures or writings. reasons for using salt salt seems to possess a close relation with human life beyond time and space. moreover, especially in japan, it is indispensable in the death culture. after my sister’s death, what I began to do in order to accept this reality was examine how death was dealt with in the present social  realm. I posed several related themes for myself such as brain death or terminal medical care and picked related materials accordingly. I then came to choose salt as a material for my work. this was when I started to focus on death customs in japan. in the beginning, I was interested in the fact that salt is used in funerals or in its subtle transparency. but gradually I came to a point where the salt in my work might have been a part of some creature and supported their lives. now I believe that salt enfolds the memory of lives. I have thus had a special feeling since I started using it as a material.

floating garden: a salt sculpture by motoi yamamoto
a visualization of the installation in progress
image by justin lai



DB: what is your daily routine?


MY: I take the bath for fatigue recovery in the morning for 30 minutes at night. it is care of a waist and the knee. the posture of the making risks a burden for health. and I put taping to a waist and a back. the stretch is important, too. I spend much time on the care of the body. it seems to be totally an athlete. therefore I can concentrate on it during making of ten hours.


DB: has there been an evolution in your work? were there any particularly pivotal moments in the progression of your sculptural style?


MY: the show in LA is one of the traveling solo exhibitions this time. therefore, the theme does not change. however, the work little change.

floating garden: a salt sculpture by motoi yamamoto
the build in progress
image by carolyn peter



DB: which artistic techniques do you prefer?


MY: of course it is installation of the salt. (I just said that by way of a joke.) but, the world did not have the art that I wanted to watch. therefore I made the world that i wanted to look at.


DB: is there any artist from the past or present whose work you have been particularly impressed with?
MY: mark rothko, christian boltanski