Japanese artist Yamamoto Motoi was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1966 and worked in a dockyard until he was 22 when he decided to focus on art full-time. Six years later in 1994 his younger sister died from complications due to brain cancer and Yamamoto immediately began to memorialize her in his labyrinthine installations of poured salt. The patterns formed from the salt are actually quite literal in that Yamamoto first created a three-dimensional brain as an exploration of his sister’s condition and subsequently wondered what would happen if the patterns and channels of the brain were then flattened. Although he creates basic guidelines and conditions for each piece, the works are almost entirely improvised with mistakes and imperfections often left intact during hundreds of hours of meticulous pouring.
In Japan, salt is closely tied to funeral rituals and mourning. In traditional funerals, mourners will throw it behind them as they enter the service. Before a match, sumo wrestlers often purify the ring with handfuls of the stuff, too. For Yamamoto, who grew up by the ocean, it was a medium that reflected his grief, as well as the fleetingness of life.
After each piece has been on view for several weeks the public is invited to communally destroy each work and help package the salt into bags and jars, after which it is thrown back into the ocean, a process you can watch in the video below by John Reynolds & Lee Donaldson. (via fastco)