It’s six o’clock on a warm spring night, I head to down to the Victoria Miro Gallery in Islington to the private view of the much-anticipated Yayoi Kusama exhibition. I’m early but there’s a long queue that stretches all the way down Wharf Road and I trudge to the back. After 45 minutes of waiting and still seemingly miles away from the entrance, the impatient art students in front of me gave up and loudly stated; “Let’s just go to the pub, it’s Kusama, once you’ve seen one dot, you’ve seen them all.” They wander off and I wait restlessly in the queue. A member of staff comes out dressed in a Kusama printed polka dot shirt and explains that once inside, the queue continues to get into the infinity room installations and that it is an “immersive experience.”
At 7.30pm, I finally enter the door to the gallery and merge with the queue to see the Chandelier of Grief. Once closed into the small room with chandeliers glittering and glimmering, the mirrors reflect the flickering lights in every direction. I feel a sense of tranquility, but by the time I have started to take in the installation in all its monumental majestic presence, I am escorted out. I become very aware of time as a conceptual medium. The hour and a half wait juxtaposed with the 15-second snippet of viewing time, perhaps it can be seen as a commentary on how time is endured in our daily lives; that so much of our lives is spent waiting just to experience pleasures that are temporal, so fleeting that if you blink you may miss it.
I make my way up the stairs to the upper floor of the gallery where Pumpkin (2016) a series of mirror polished bronze sculptures are placed. Similarly to the Chandelier of Grief, the sculptures are lavishly grandiose due to the material opulence of the bronze medium. Although, since they are so quintessentially Kusama, they represent a childhood nostalgia viewing the world through a lens of innocent wonderment rather than merely conveying a sense of luxurious abundance.
The queue to get into the next infinity room, All The Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016,) is relatively short which makes the experience less about time endurance and more about the viewing of the actual artwork. As I enter the room and the doors shut behind me I am transformed into a mesmerising alternate reality, the luminous yellow gleam contrasted by the stark black dots. When I catch my reflection in the infinity mirrors, I feel dissociated: disconnected from my sense of self, I am hypnotised and drawn into the world as perceived by Kusama. When the door opens after the allotted 15 seconds I am reluctant to leave but do so in order to let the next people experience the magic.
The last room in the exhibition is the Waterside Garden which contains an infinity room that on the outside is mirrored and on the inside is covered in peepholes, which when you look through you see Narcissus Garden (1966-) 873 stainless steel spheres floating in the pond. The intricacy of the formulation is spectacular, the mirrors reflect the spheres while simultaneously distorting the actuality of physical existence.
In short this exhibition is a must see, a truly unique and captivating experience. If you think you’ve seen one dot then you’ve seen them all, you are missing out. It was worth every excruciating second spent waiting in the never-ending queues. Now off to the other Victoria Miro Gallery in Mayfair to see the paintings! Watch this space….
Yayoi Kusama – Until 30-07-2016 @ both Victoria Miro London locations
Words: Teo Robinson Photos: Sara Faith © Artlyst 2016