Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field (AFTERALL)

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field (AFTERALL)

Jo Applin

Language: English

Pages: 120

ISBN: 184638091X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Almost a half-century after Yayoi Kusama debuted her landmark installation Infinity Mirror Room--Phalli's Field (1965) in New York, the work remains challenging and unclassifiable. Shifting between the Pop-like and the Surreal, the Minimal and the metaphorical, the figurative and the abstract, the psychotic and the erotic, with references to "free love" and psychedelia, it seemed to embody all that the 1960s was about, while at the same time denying the prevailing aesthetics of its time. The installation itself was a room lined with mirrored panels and carpeted with several hundred brightly polka-dotted soft fabric protrusions into which the visitor was completely absorbed. Kusama simply called it "a sublime, miraculous field of phalluses." A precursor of performance-based feminist art practice, media pranksterism, and "Occupy" movements, Kusama (born in 1929) was once as well known as her admirers--Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, and Joseph Cornell. In this first monograph on an epoch-defining work, Jo Applin looks at the installation in detail and places it in the context of subsequent art practice and theory as well as Kusama's own (as she called it) "obsessional art." Applin also discusses Kusama's relationship to her contemporaries, particularly those working with environments, abstract-erotic sculpture, and mirrors, and those grappling with such issues as abstraction, eroticism, sexuality, and softness. The work of Lee Lozano, Claes Oldenburg, Louise Bourgeois, and Eva Hesse is seen anew when considered in relation to Yayoi Kusama's.

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In recent years, readings of Kusama’s work have reconsidered it as less the output of a mentally ill subject and instead in terms of her strategic production of a psychologically charged encounter that is no longer irreducibly linked to her own psychological state. Both Mignon Nixon and Briony Fer have discussed Kusama’s use of reiteration and the phallic form through a psychoanalytic language of disavowal, splitting, repetition and the part-object. Far from offering a diagnostic account of

repetitions) are momentarily relaxed in a freeing manner.61 From Infinity Nets to Minimalism Kusama was already investigating psychological unease and the loosening of boundaries between, on the one hand, self and other and, on the other, subject and object in the Infinity Net paintings she began producing in 1958 (fig.8 and 9). In these she employed serial repetition and abstraction to articulate a fracture of the psyche and sense of endlessness. These paintings were also her first serious

relationships out of the work and makes them a function of space, light and the viewer’s field of vision. The object is but one of the terms in the newer aesthetic. It is in some way more reflexive because one’s awareness of oneself existing in the same space as the work is stronger than in previous work, with its many internal 36 | Yayoi Kusama relationships. One is more aware than before that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various

the late 1980s, after several years of working predominantly on her writing, she had begun to regularly exhibit new work again, which included large-scale environmental installations similar to Infinity Mirror Room — Phalli’s Field. Dots Obsession (1998), for example, a large mirrored room containing a series of big red inflatable balloons spotted with black polka dots, exists as a permanent installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kusama also returned to making soft,

to fully engage with the exhibiting space affecting circulation almost in a choreographic manner. The artworks, all referred to with the formula Untitled (Object Name), and included, Boiler, Cloud, Corner Beam, Corner Piece, Floor Beam, Table and Wall Slab. 81 Ibid. 74 Robert Morris, ‘Notes on Sculpture Part Two’ (1966), Artforum, vol.5, no.2, October 1966, pp.20—23; reprinted in G. Battcock (ed.), Minimal Art, op. cit., pp.233—34. 75 ‘Womanhouse’ was a project realised by Judy Chicago and

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