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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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IMG_5099  Gleaming Lights of the Souls, Yayoi Kusama

A few years ago, I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen. It’s a wonderful museum, and I’d spent a few hours walking through the galleries and enjoying the sea view outside. Happy with what I’d seen and almost ready to make the journey back to the city, I chatted with a stranger about my favorite parts of the museum. He said his favorite was a room with lots of lights, something that I’d managed to skip on my way through. It sounded like it was worth walking back for. It was so easy to miss because it was just a door, and there wasn’t a line of people to get in. I walked in with one other person and enjoyed this beautiful cosmic view of color-changing lights stretching into infinity. It was described as looking into a sea of city lights. I had forever to experience this universe and take all the photos I wanted (though I only took a few), and it ended up being my favorite part of the museum and one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Life (Repetitive Vision)

I noticed that Louisiana had a Yayoi Kusama exhibit for awhile, and I briefly considered flying back to Copenhagen to see it, but it didn’t end up making sense logistically. Then I noticed that an exhibit was scheduled to be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and I got really excited. The Asian Art Museum is currently closed for renovations, so it ended up being at the main Seattle Art Museum. I saw all the advertisements and figured I’d catch the exhibit some Thursday while they were open for later hours… then I found out that all advance tickets had already sold out. The only way to get tickets was to wait in line to get some of the limited day of tickets.

Infinity Dots

So of course, I did that. The exhibit has been immensely popular, but it seems like there have been enough day of tickets so that everyone in line early has been able to get in at some point in the day. The experience ends up being about infinity lines: line to get in the door when the museum opens, line to buy a ticket, line for your ticket time to get into the exhibit, and line at each of the infinity rooms. Of the hour or two you spend in the exhibit, the vast majority of it ends up being in line, with only 20-30 seconds allowed in each infinity room before an employee knocks on the door and kicks you out. The 20-30 seconds seems short, especially in Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, which has lanterns that change brightness – 30 seconds isn’t enough to experience one cycle of change. And you can go in more than once, but it might be another half hour wait in line. There were other pieces of Kusama’s art to look at while waiting in line, but they weren’t nearly as interesting as the rooms.

Phalli’s Field

It might not be apparent to all viewers, since they’re so cleverly disguised in pop patterns, that those tentacles all over the place are actually phalli. Apparently back in the 60s, Kusama was busy making all sorts of phallic art, lots and lots of tentacles! She was working on Phalli’s Field, and she wanted more penises, but she got tired of having to sew them all. So she did some experimentation with mirrors and discovered that she could multiply the penises this way… and the infinity rooms were born. The infinity rooms in this exhibit are mostly full of whimsy: dotted phalli, pumpkins, and polka dot balloons. Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity stands out as more mystical, with its brightening and dimming lanterns echoing into infinity. It was the most similar in aesthetic and tone to Gleaming Lights of the Souls that I’d seen in Copenhagen, and it was my favorite in this exhibit. It also had the longest line.

The Obliteration Room

Kusama’s art isn’t for everyone. Critics might say that it isn’t anything groundbreaking, it just looks kind of cool and makes for cool internet selfies, etc. What I like about it is the way it invites the viewer to participate. In the infinity rooms, the door closes you into this small physical space, but the mirrors make you feel completely immersed in an expansive and beautiful world with a very pronounced mood. In The Obliteration Room, the participation is defined: each visitor is given a page of dot stickers, and each sticker must be placed somewhere in this previously white room. Together, they interact with the room to create the art.

Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots

With such short time in each room, I tried to minimize the photo taking (but couldn’t force myself to abstain completely, except in the pumpkin room where photos are prohibited), and most of the rooms are not captured in the photos on this post. For me, the photos will help bring back the memories, but they can’t capture the real feeling of being there. Even though I griped about the lines and the short amount of time allocated for experiencing the art, I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience this unique exhibit. (Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors @ Seattle Art Museum from June 30, 2017 – September 10, 2017)