Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins and Chandelier of Grief, Victoria Miro, London, 25th May - 30th July 2016.
Creative Art Review
When a brain is disturbed it becomes unable to form the exact image of a memory. Throughout her career, Yayoi Kusama’s visual and auditory hallucinations have been methodically kneaded into her work. The continuous revisiting of particular symbols have saturated the artist’s mind, like the liquorice-black polka dots have peppered Kusama’s perception since childhood. The sporadic resurgence of such imagery eclipses parts of her memory, plunging it into a hallucinogenic whirlpool. The work is marked with a fierce persistence in trying to connect and enhance these disjointed illusions, form a fully realised body of memory or time. Yet, these fragmented symbols remain displaced, their cosmic lights blinking into a black recessive void.
This exhibition is dominated by infinity rooms: immersive closets lined with mirrors. Inside each cabinet, Kusama has placed figments of her memories: a rotating chandelier, a field of pumpkins. Familiar tenants of her work which have re-spawned in this exhibition, but are entrapped within the hexagonal walls of the rooms. There is an uneasiness about their isolated presence, their distorted shapes fighting against their enclosure, reflections blurring the boundaries between real and imagined space. The viewer steps inside and is then enclosed within, away from reality, away from natural light. The only glow coming from the artificial lights of the objects, the rest of the space cloaked in a tactile darkness.
Encasing the objects of her illusions, Kusama is attempting to shield or escape from their twinkling gaze. The objects alienated by their environment are transfixed by their repeated reflection. They drown in a repeated image, a repeat form. The mirrors manifest into a visible fourth-dimensional wall: the objects extend beyond their present space and time. They seem to stretch beyond reality in an attempt to escape their present state. The suggestion is of the potential to expand indefinitely. The cabinet creating an echo chamber: the more the object attempts to expand beyond itself, the more its own reflection is reverberated back onto it.
‘The chandelier of grief’ (2016) rotates within a glass column set inside a mirrored room. The reflection of the chandelier spreads out in an infinite regress, plankton-like shapes suspended across an ocean of glossy darkness. The repetition of the object’s whirring perpetuates the work’s continuous mulling over single, revisited details. The viewer, caught by the chandelier’s glassy gaze, oscillates over the work like an edging tide. Both the work and the viewer become unmoored in a deep, unnerving space: depersonalised and removed from any sense of reality. The mirrors are obscuring screens that allow only a partial view of what lies behind or beyond.
For all of its grandiosity, Kusama’s work has a meditative nature, which plunges into the depths of physical and psychological darkness. The effect is one of self-obliteration, as the work is confronted by it own infinite reflection. The mirrors are Narcissus’s pond and the object submerged within can only be amazed by the beauty of its reflection. It is forced to look only into its own eye, by the echoing of its image. Everything else is absolute, as the work is forced to absorb its own aesthetic. The objects confounded by their own form, invert and then propel into a deep well of darkness. As the work tries to reach further away from itself, the reflection brings the gaze back onto the object. In trying to seek closure and formation, the object becomes entangled in its own perspective.
Once Narcissus realised he could not capture the love of his reflection, he drowned. The glowing pumpkins warp as their metallic crusts oxidise with black dots. The chandelier is electrified with broken falters of blue. Calamity ensues. The visitor is swept into a swampy void. The fractured reflections sprayed out in front of them.
Here, in a confined space, the illusions have physically manifested into objects; ghostly reflections that swirl in a chasmic regress. Sedimented beneath the exhibition’s starry lights are the dregs of psychological trauma.
The exhibition materialises the tenants of Kusama’s hallucinations; then isolates it from any exterior motion, but its own.
The work is trapped by its own aesthetic.