Yayoi Kusama’s art exhibit “Infinity Mirrors” is currently making its way around the U.S.. The exhibit recently aired at the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C., and it was so highly anticipated that they had to control the amount of daily tickets that were issued. Every Monday at 12pm the tickets would go on sale and before the clock hit 12:01, the tickets would be gone. I set an alarm and signed online each time, hoping that I would be one of the lucky few. Months went by and I started to lose hope. Then one day, the stars aligned and I scored two tickets. This is what the experience was like. (And for all of you who weren’t as lucky, you can still see the exhibit in Seattle (June 30-Sept 10), LA (Oct-Jan ’18), and Cleveland (July-Oct ’18).)
The Infinity Mirrors exhibit is unique because it is catered to the individual. If you go with a friend, you will enter each exhibit alone with your friend. They will close the door of the exhibit behind you, and you will get a quick 20 SECONDS to live in the world Kusama created. And it really is a different world. When you’re locked in there, the air feels different and the dimensions, although known to you, seem to be infinite.
There were 5 different exhibits, and the line for each seemed to last an eternity. If you’ve been to Disney World in the summer time, they are oddly comparable. It was worth the wait though. Each exhibit used mirrors in order to multiply the art Kusama created. If she designed light fixtures, then the mirrors duplicated a million glowing orbs. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Kusama’s theme of repetition can be seen throughout all her exhibits. She was particularly interested in pumpkins, phallic symbols and dots. She began repeating these figures obsessively as a way to relieve her mind. From her own will, she’s been living in a mental hospital for many years.
Events from her childhood brought about hallucinations and trauma that are now reflected in her art. She once saw a pumpkin speak to her, and from this a new exhibit was born. Someone taking a selfie accidentally fell into a pumpkin, breaking it. Because of this one person, you are accompanied by an attendant in this exhibit and aren’t allowed to take photos. I captured this while having my phone in my back pocket.
Kusama lived a troubled life. Her fear of sex began with the infidelity of her father. As a child, she witnessed him in the act with another woman. This brought about a disdain for the sexual, which she tried to work through by recreating phallic symbols and pasting them on everyday household objects. The ultimate goal was to familiarize herself with it, making it mundane. I wonder if this art therapy ever worked for her.
Kusama’s artistic endeavors were not supported by her traditional parents. She particularly fought with her mother, who threw away her paintings and urged her to marry. This strain and Kusama’s passion for art led her to NYC. Here she began to fight repression and her disdain for sexuality in public ways, by stripping naked or lying by her art work in Central Park.
She was successful in many ways, but money was not abundant for her in NY. The lifestyle and people in the city were also tough on her, leading her further into mental instability. She became so poor that she slept on “an old door, and she scavenged fish heads and old vegetables from dumpsters and boiled them into soup” for dinner.1
Eventually she made her way back to Japan, where her public acts of art and nudity were looked down upon. She has since checked herself into a mental hospital, where she continues to spend her entire day painting in an attempt to ultimately relieve herself from the burden of her own mind.
For those of you who get a chance, I highly encourage you to visit the infamous world Kusama has created. She has taken the neurosis in her mind and materialized it. Her work and her life are truly remarkable because of her ability to face the greatest challenges of her life and transform them into something beautiful.