Have you ever wondered what it might be like to get inside someone’s mind to understand their ins and outs? Now you can, and it doesn’t require any new- fangled tech or science labs to do so. Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms at the Tate Modern gives you the opportunity to take a glimpse into her world and see what she sees, and feel what she feels. This long awaited exhibition by one of today’s most celebrated and prolific artists has finally opened in London and it’s a must see.
Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Yayoi started creating art from a young age during an era when Japanese traditions and social conservatism were being strongly promoted under the shadow of an economic crisis and rising nationalism. Despite strong opposition from her family, she went on to study painting in Kyoto. Fuelled by her desire for ‘unlimited freedom’ and the ‘wider world’, Kusama moved to the States in 1957, attracted to the bright lights of New York. Here she fully immersed herself in the fast paced art scene of the 1960s, providing a backdrop for much of her work at the time.
Kasuma returned to Japan in 1973 and admitted herself to a Tokyo hospital in 1977 having experienced mental health issues and hallucinations throughout her life. She remains there to this day, writing and painting, both of which she describes as her saviour. Often photographed with her artwork in carefully staged images, she ensures that she is placed at the centre of her creativity, giving an insight into the process behind her work. The infinity mirror rooms do exactly this, however instead of Kusama placed within her own work, the idea is that you become the centre, enabling her to give you an inside out experience of her art and immersing yourself in both her turbulent and serene states of mind.
The accompanying exhibition is definitely worth taking time to explore fully before entering the two mirror rooms. It provides a detailed context through photography, film and sculpture, some on display for the very first time. One of the first pieces you encounter is a cube made up of small windows – The Universe As Seen From A Stairway To Heaven. On peering in through the windows, the space appears to have no end. It literally goes on forever. Your face is instantly reflected alongside multi-coloured circles. With mirrors, dots and repetition being an important aspect of Kasuma’s work and featuring heavily throughout, the scenes through the windows essentially reflect her hallucinations and enable her to share and make sense of these episodes through her art. This glimpse into Kasuma’s mind, gives a taste of what’s to come.
There are two infinity mirror rooms – The Chandelier of Grief, and Filled with the Brilliance of Life. On entering The Chandelier of Grief, you are greeted by a reflected space that goes on and on, with no end in sight. An ornate chandelier hangs from the ceiling with flickering lights bouncing off the mirrored walls. This surrounds you with a never-ending field of light, and your own reflection forming part of the experience meaning that every visit to the room is completely unique. The space can be somewhat disorienting, but that’s all part of its appeal; giving you an uneasy feeling at the same time as taking in the beauty and marvelling at the infinite lights.
The second room, Filled with the Brilliance of Life, fully immerses you in Kasuma’s hallucinations which she likens to being ‘obliterated’ by repeated dots. This room is an invitation to share this ‘self obliteration’. You are completely engulfed by dots, making it hard to decipher where you end and where the rest of the room begins. This is to confuse between the artwork and yourself so that you can’t be distinguished from the art. As you enter, you walk along a reflective walkway over a shallow pool with no edges, putting you on edge for sure. Around you tiny dots of pulsing light are repeated over and over in the mirrors and water, like a heartbeat or ticking clock fully submerging you in an infinite space, the pulse heightening your awareness of time passing and reminding you that nothing stands still with the changing colours of the dots taking you through a spectrum of emotions. If self obliteration is the aim of the piece, this hits the target perfectly.
Today, Kasuma lives in a specially built room entirely covered by mirrors opening up a world of freedom and fantasy much like the infinity rooms, which create endless possibilities and provide an almost voyeuristic window into Kasuma’s world. A not to be missed experience, Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Mirror Rooms runs until June 2022 at the Tate Modern in London. Visit www.tate.org.uk for details.