January 3, 2011: Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota set fire to a grand piano in a Hobart street as part of an art installation for MONA FOMA 2011.

The burnt piano will form the centrepiece for an artwork to be exhibited at Detached gallery from January 14 to April 3.

Chiharu Shiota will then spend 10 days spinning a vast cocoon of black thread around what remains of the piano. The work, 'In Silence', is one of four pieces that form the artist's first major Australian exhibition. The blackened carcass of the grand piano and accompanist's chair will be trapped in a labyrinth of black wool. Shiota says the work is a meditation on sound and its absence.

The piece responds to an incident that occurred when Shiota was nine-years old. She woke in the night to sound of burning timber and ran to wake her parents. The family then watched helplessly as a neighbour's home burned. Later, Shiota saw the remains of a piano charred and silent in the ashes.

'I became scared,' she recalls, 'and quickly ran home. There I tried to play on my piano. My mother said I should not play at a moment when the house of our neighbour had just been burnt down. But I felt as if my own voice had been burnt, too, and therefore continued to play. I was overcome by silence. Days later, the wind carried the smell of the extinguished fire over to us. I then felt every time I smelled it that the smoke made me loose my voice.

This happened 20 years ago. I always carry this silence within me: deep in my heart. When I try to express it, I lack the necessary words. But the silence lasts. The more I think about it, the stronger it gets. The piano looses its voice, the painter does not paint any more, the musician stops making music. They loose their function, but not their beauty. They even become more beautiful.

My true word has no sound.'

About the artist

Shiota was born in Osaka in 1972 and has been based in Berlin, Germany since 1997. Over the past decade she has earned an international reputation for her haunting installation and performance practice. Recently, she has exhibited at major commercial galleries in London, Nagoya, Paris, and New York, and in the Third Moscow Biennale (2009) and 2009 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. For more information:

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Curated by Olivier Varenne (MONA), the exhibition 'In Silence' shows two site-specific installations, an early video projection and a new series of 10 drawings made especially for the occasion.

About the curator:

Olivier Varenne (Paris, France, 1977) is a curator at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Australia. He was also the curator of on&on at the Casa Encendida in Madrid in 2010 and the assistant curator for the 2009 edition of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art and has worked in the acquisitions departments of galleries such as the Gagosian in London and Pace Wildenstein in New York.