Tate presents a rare chance to experience two of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms. These immersive installations will transport you into Kusama’s unique vision of endless reflections. Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life is one of Kusama’s largest installations to date and was made for her 2012 retrospective at Tate Modern. It is shown alongside Chandelier of Grief, a room which creates the illusion of a boundless universe of rotating crystal chandeliers.
A small presentation of photographs – some on display for the first time – provides historical context for the global phenomenon that Kusama’s mirrored rooms have become today.
Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama came to attention for her happenings in 1960s New York and a wide-ranging artistic practice that has encompassed installation, painting, sculpture, fashion design and literary writing. Since the 1970s she has lived in Tokyo, where she continues to work prolifically and to international acclaim.
Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life 2011 is a room through which visitors pass on a walkway made of mirrored tiles. The walls and ceiling of the room are also mirrored, and the floor surrounding the walkway is covered with a shallow pool of water. Hanging from the ceiling are hundreds of small, round LED lights that flash on and off in different colour configurations on a timed programme. The pinpricks of light in the otherwise darkened room appear to reflect endlessly in the mirrors and the water, giving the viewer the experience of being in a seemingly endless space. The work was made specifically for the artist’s retrospective exhibition Yayoi Kusama held at Reina Sofia, Madrid, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Tate Modern, London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 2011 and 2012. It was the largest mirror installation she had made up to that date. As the second part of the work’s title suggests, it seeks to visualise life as a ‘brilliant’ experience. The work exists in an edition of three of which this version owned by Tate is number one.
Kusama first used mirrors in the mid-1960s in her large-scale installations Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field 1965 and Kusama’s Peep Show – Endless Love Show 1966. Although these early works presented a more sexually oriented language, the way in which the viewer became part of the phenomenological environment, experiencing endlessly multiplied forms, is comparable to the much later Infinity Mirrored Room. Kusama has underlined the importance of the role the viewer plays in her rooms and how he or she continually experiences the work in a new way: ‘One is more aware than before that he himself [the viewer] is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context … For it is the viewer who changes the shape constantly by his change in position relative to the work’ (quoted in Applin 2012, p.37).
Kusama has been fascinated with ideas of endlessness in space and vision throughout her career. Her work, executed across a range of media, is characterised by its investigation of pattern, repetition and accumulation. From childhood Kusama suffered from anxiety and hallucinatory episodes, often in the form of nets or spots multiplying to dominate her field of vision. Forms from these hallucinations became the basis of her visual vocabulary. Early in her career, she began covering different surfaces – including walls, floors, canvases, objects, animals and people – with polka dots, which became a trademark of her work. Her large-scale environments, such as Infinity Mirrored Room, combine this hallucinatory motif with an ongoing concern with perspective, space and optical experience. The work exemplifies Kusama’s examination of repetition and infinity, while the interactive character of the room is typical of the way in which her practice engages the viewer directly, breaking down boundaries between subject and object.
DATES: 11 May 2020 – 9 May 2021
8–10 May 2020 Exclusive preview weekend for Tate Members and Tate Collective