Yayoi Kusama’s : From Technicolor Galaxy to Infinity

Story By
Stephanie Mamonto

Take a peek at one of the world’s most recognized living artists’ way of seeing life, literally, and maybe even your own reflection in a way you’ve never even noticed before.

A lady took a look into a hexagonal peep box that allowed her to experience the room filled with multi-colored flashing lights. It did not only generate a kaleidoscopic experience or gave her a glimpse of infinity and obliteration, but also an interactive experience, as she found another face she barely knew that waved to her as if they were the only humans in another dimension.

The lady, Jakarta-based Illustrator Ykha Amelz, shared the encounter of one of her favorite Yayoi Kusama artworks, I Want to Love on The Festival Night (2017), at “Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow” exhibition in Museum MACAN. The artist’s first survey exhibition in Indonesia, traces her development over seven decades, beginning in Japan in the early 1950s, moving to New York in the 1960s and returning to Japan in 1973 where she lives and works today. Museum MACAN is the third and final location of the international exhibition that has been featured at the National Gallery of Singapore and Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art in Australia.

“I love it because besides being fascinated by the glass technology, the flashing lights, and also the optical illusion it brings, that peeking experience gives all of us such fun vibes, as if what I feel when putting my head into it is directly illustrated by what I see,” Ykha explained.

Yayoi Kusama maybe suffered from hallucinations in the form of nets and dots, which have continued throughout her life and played a big part in her creative process. Kusama’s work quickly expanded beyond the canvas to encircle performance, fashion design, soft sculpture, and merged other art forms with the trends and innovations of today, mixing technology and craftsmanship. 

As arguably one of Japan’s most famous living artists, Kusama’s body of work has transcended into global popular culture. Despite the selfie debate, which reignites as some of the visitors touched and leaned on the artwork for the sake of great selfies, Kusama herself intended the work to be part of a communal experience, whether in-person or online. In her exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore, this 88-year-old avant garde artist said she is grateful how people share her art on different platforms, including social media, according to Mayo Martin’s report on Channel News Asia.

Museum MACAN, represented by Communication Officer Nina Hidayat, stated that they are fully aware that the exhibition, which runs from May 12 until September 9, is presented in a technological era and an age of social media where we're inundated with our cameras and smartphones. “In accordance with that, we are improving our security with volunteers of up to one hundred people per day to make sure the artworks are safely in place.” These museum officers constantly remind the visitors of the exhibition rules and adopt a strict policy allowing guests to spend not more than 45 seconds in each part.

Displaying over 130 works, including the new acquisition of Museum MACAN and its works which were not featured in both previous exhibitions, the exhibition is organized chronologically, making it possible to chart Kusama’s artistic development through the decades. The ongoing variation in her artistic practice, simultaneously demonstrating the basic principle that underlies her work – obsession, repetition, and proliferation of subjects, triggered by horror vacui, a fear or dislike of leaving empty spaces, especially in an artistic composition.

Resi Deriana, Editor-in-Chief Rimma.co, is also fascinated by how Kusama continuously demonstrates ongoing development utilizing many approaches and across mediums throughout her life, especially engaging with new technology such as video and LED lights during her experimentation in art. “Her artworks were meant for everyone,” said Resi, “making the Infinity Mirrored Room’s concept is easy to contemplate when we step inside it and see the heart-wrenchingly beautiful colorful dots and shiny LED lights as if our Earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos,” she continued to say with her eyes a-sparkle, quoting the artist herself.   

This Infinity Mirrored Room series truly examined the contemporary Japanese artist’s significant nearly seven-decade career and contextualized the vague idea of infinite chaos in time and space, growing upward in her enclosed mirror spaces, where viewers can wander and their reflections become part of the work, and also peer into a miniature universe of dots that give a sense of space both expanding and collapsing.

Photos by Ralmond F. Karundeng, Stephanie Mamonto, Museum Macan