Yayoi Kusama, Tate Modern
Yayoi Kusama’s work has been described by many, and herself, as being concerned with various themes, among these; repetition, infinity, and a sense of the overwhelming. As proof, critics point to her prolific output across six decades. Not content with simply one sculpture or installation, Kusama produces tens of them.
The majority of visitors take it as given that Kusama’s various works are concerned with documenting her own obsessive tendency to collect and produce. The critical thinker finds another explanation.
Her works, e.g. Accumulation of Stamps (1962), are not examples of her obsessions, but our own. Through the repeated subjects and forms she shows how we - as practitioners of capitalism - are obsessed with reproduction, overproduction, and infinite expansion.
This pertinent political message is however lost under the weight of criticism and reviews which simply focus, with a Primitivist-like fascination, on her perceived status as an ‘outsider-artist’. Popular journalism depicts her as an Other; Asian, a woman, involved in counter-culture, sexual-liberation, voluntarily consigned to a psychiatric institute. For the media she is the romanticised bohemian artist, on the edges of culture, practising a truer, more raw art. Kusama does little to counter this character though, often playing on it for her own advantage.
However this is not the real Kusama. The real Kusama is fully aware of the art-world and of social & political issues that remain important today. It is the real Kusama that one should bear in mind whilst visiting this exhibition.
‘Yayoi Kusama’ is at the Tate Modern until the 5th of June.
The image above is of Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life, 2011
This post is a much condensed version of the essay I wrote on the exhibition.