Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese Contemporary artist known for her soft phallic, polka-dotted installations and infinity rooms. For reasons unknown, Kusama began to experience hallucinations at the age of 10 years old. She described these hallucinations as flashes of light auras or a dense field of dots. This later became her trademark in the art scene. According to Kusama, the repetition of dotted fields in her artworks is a way to calm herself and relieve her own fears and anxieties.
Besides her famous dotted artworks, Kusama was also considered a leading artist when it comes to installations. Her first installation was called Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963). This installation was greeted with awe and amazement for its unique take on art. Kusama’s first installation was a boat covered in soft phallic shapes, with walls covered with the images of the boat sculpture on display. Later on, in 1965, Kusama held her first-ever infinity room called Phalli’s Field. This installation required Kusama to organize hundreds of polka-dotted, soft phallic forms all over the floor inside a mirrored room. This installation inspired other artists to recreate their own take on infinite spaces like avant-garde Lucas Samaras’s Mirrored Room.
In 2009, Kusama, at the age of 80, introduced one of her famous infinity rooms called Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. This installation is currently at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, located at Nancy and Rich Kinder Building on the first floor. Houstonians, like myself, currently have the opportunity to witness one of Kusama’s famous Infinity Rooms.
I had the opportunity to experience Kusama’s Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity one Thursday afternoon with my husband. Usually on Thursdays, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston is free for everyone and so we decided to use this time as a date opportunity. As soon as we got our free general admission at the front desk, we immediately walked straight to the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building to find Kusama’s Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. Upon arriving, we were greeted by a line of people waiting to see and experience Kusama’s installation. Despite the line being rather long, it moved quickly since visitors were given only 60 seconds to experience the installation. Before going in, rules were laid out and visitors were informed about the limited time and to remain within the designated viewing platform. Once inside, we were greeted with floating lights that seemed to never end, stretching out into a dark abyss for eternity.
As someone who has only seen her artwork through social media platforms, seeing it with my own two eyes was truly breathtaking and mesmerizing. When it was my and my husband's turn to go in, we were greeted with floating flickering lights. It reminded me of being in the Great Hall at Hogwarts where the ceiling was covered with floating candles, or like distant stars flickering in space. At the same time, it felt like I could walk through eternity in the same linear pathway while surrounded by the lights. The lights looked so delicate to watch. I was afraid to blink for fear of missing every detail. One moment you were surrounded by flickering lights, then the next thing you know you were left in the dark. I was initially scared and thought that something must have gone wrong. I felt my chest get heavy at the thought that I was robbed of my one-minute experience to witness Kusama’s infinity room. However, sure enough, the lights slowly flickered back so gently and delicately. I had to laugh at myself that I forgot that the lights would turn off as part of the installation. Kusama did this on purpose. After our one-minute experience, my husband and I heard a knock, and the door opened to indicate that our time inside was over.
I know I have described this installation as breathtaking and mesmerizing, but I feel like this experience was beyond words for me to describe. I feel like Kusama herself described this installation better than anyone else. Therefore, I will end this piece with her take on the Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. She said,
“In the human world, what arouses our body and feeling of vitality is Eternity. I have been living in this Eternity, where enormous love for humanity passes through and the vast brilliance of life is infinitely reflected… We keep flashing, disappearing, and again blossoming out in this Eternity.”
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