Over winter break, I visited Yayoi Kusama’s touring “Infinity Mirrors,” where crowds gathered at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles for more than three hours to get into the exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and Kusama’s kaleidoscopic mirror rooms. The Japanese contemporary artist of age 88, who still is confined in a mental institution, still comes out to prove that she is one of the most intricate artists of our time.
Kusama uses balloons, thousands of lights, and of course her ongoing obsession of polka dots, to attract tons of people to the art museum, and make her art one of the biggest trends on social media.
This generation primarily uses social media to interact amongst each other. Kusama is also popular for her effect on human narcissism that makes us have intense interest in physical appearance and personality. Because of this, the Kusama effect challenges the viewer to be not only be culturally relevant, but to make us look in the mirror and realize how Instagram sucks us in and takes us away from critically looking at art.
As one of her biggest themes is self-obliteration, a metaphor for abolishing uniqueness, I tried not to snap too many pictures of myself, and instead enjoyed the 30 seconds I was allowed in each room.
However, is this Instagram phenomenom hurting or helping art? Other museums like the Museum of Ice Cream, which opened in 2016 exploded on Instagram for the primary resource of its lighting, backdrops, and cute props. Today, our selfie-dominated culture spills out everywhere in contemporary art.
Here in the Bay Area, we can judge the huge sellout of the San Francisco Museum of Ice Cream or the popularity of MOMA for the sole purpose of social media. But art has this power of connecting millions of people. The difference is, Kusama’s usage of mirrors makes you a reflection of the art as if you are personally a part of the piece. Your individual interpretation of human hubris and what you actually see in the room versus our iPhone camera is exactly what Kusama wants you to feel.