Guests crowded into the Halsey lobby Saturday afternoon to take part in the closing celebration of Motoi Yamamoto’s Saltworks exhibition. The Halsey attracted a record 8,000 visitors over six weeks who came to see the site-specific installation made entirely of salt. According to curator Mark Sloan, the salt was only disturbed twice — by a fallen pair of sunglasses and an iPhone. Both were retrieved with a wooden stick with double-sided tape on the end.
After Sloan gave a welcoming speech highlighting the importance and power of salt in our lives — it’s necessary to our survival but too much or too little could be the end of us — the crowd prepared to sweep up the salt. Our eyes slowly wandered into the exhibit, waiting for the fun to start. Several children crept right up the ribbon, waiting for it to be cut to release them into the salty sand box.
Visitors were invited to collect the salt using the original 194 cans of Morton Salt that Yamamoto had used for the exhibit, and others brought their own bags, tea tins, and buckets. The Halsey also provided pieces of Plexiglas to scrape up the humidity-hardened grains, but people some just used their hands or credit cards — we even saw someone risking their iPhone to get the floor clean.
Although the artist wasn’t able to join us in person, the Halsey hooked him up via Skype to a television overlooking the dismantling. His dedicated translator had joined him (it was 5 a.m. in Japan) so guests could ask him questions through the cyber-tube.
It took about 45 minutes to get the floor (somewhat) clean, and from there guests headed to the Maritime Center to return the salt to the sea (or in this case, Charleston Harbor). Sloan assured us that a marine biologist had confirmed that this would not cause an unhealthful spike in salinity for the water. And with that, we poured the remains of Yamamoto’s exhibit back into the eco-system, confident that it will cycle back into our lives — maybe next time on our dining room table.