Yayoi Kusama: Discovering Infinity

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away | PC: hirshhorn.si.edu

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away | PC: hirshhorn.si.edu

As we wind down the month of March, this also means we’re winding down Women’s History Month. It’s only fair that we discuss one of the most relevant contemporary artists that continues to make her imprint upon history—Yayoi Kusama. Specifically, I would like to talk about one of her most popular series of installation works that are known as “Infinity Mirror Rooms.”

You may recognize Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms from social media posts from all over the world. However, you may also recognize one of the rooms, "The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away," from footage used as stage display last year at Adele’s BRIT Awards performance. Adele comments on the room by saying, “I definitely feel like standing in that room for an hour.” She adds, “I saw things in myself and of myself I haven’t noticed before.” I believe this is the exact kind of reaction Kusama wants to pull from the viewer.

I believe Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms transcend ordinary art installation norms to give the viewer an enveloping and unique contemplative experience. But how did these rooms come into existence? In an interview with BOMB Magazine, Kusama says, “The original idea for this work dates back to my childhood. I was making paintings in small, medium, and large sizes then, without sleeping at night sometimes. Those paintings, 2 or 3,000 in total, were rapidly sublimated within myself and developed into sculptures. In other words, underlying the mirror room were my early paintings.

To create an endless mirror room had been my long-cherished dream.” Thus, Kusama’s idea for the Infinity Mirror Room was born.

Kusama’s art has strong ties with her mental illness and she has been vocal about it. In an interview with CNN, Kusama explains, “I have been struggling with mental illness and emptiness throughout my life. Now I want people to understand my glorious quest for the truth. Working on paintings is a process toward my artistic creation. It is a new spiritual theme of my whole philosophy for pursuing the truth.” I believe this pursuit of truth is instilled within the viewer in her Infinity Mirror Rooms.

So what can you expect when going into an Infinity Mirror Room experience? The Hirshhorn Museum explains, “Ranging from peep-show-like chambers to multimedia installations, each of Kusama’s kaleidoscopic environments offers the chance to step into an illusion of infinite space. The rooms also provide an opportunity to examine the artist’s central themes, such as the celebration of life and its aftermath.” These themes, transcended into experiences, are ultimately the truths Kusama wants us to meditate on.

Cameron Cizek is a sophomore guest writer studying computing.