Admonishing your kids not to graffiti the walls may be forever futile. A new art installation by publicly deranged Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama entails children being given printed sheets of colored stickers and told to go to town on the walls, furniture, and fixtures of all-white living spaces. Everything from the upright piano to the cutlery and linens in the once-spartan rooms are dappled crazily in a disorienting clot of jarring primary colors.
Over the course of two weeks, the Queensland Art Gallery’s pint-sized visitors “obliterated” the room with approximately 3.3 million stickers. According to Kusama, who has suffered hallucinatory visions of repeating patterns since childhood, the process of rendering the orderly space frenetic and unrecognizable is tantamount to “clearing the mind.”
Paradoxes aside, dots became a cathartic outlet and Kusama’s trademark after she began to incorporate them into her artwork in the 1960s, at which time she actively rallied in anti-war demonstrations using the medium of art.
“One day I was looking at the red flower patterns of the tablecloth on a table, and when I looked up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body and the universe,” said the 85-year-old artist, an outpatient at a Japanese mental institution since 1977. “I felt as if I had begun to self-obliterate, to revolve in the infinity of endless time and the absoluteness of space, and be reduced to nothingness.”
According to Kusama, the non-descript living spaces function as blank canvases to be “obliterated,” while the nature of constant flux as the artwork changes with every sticker application reflects the loss of control associated with mental illness. ‘The Obliteration Room’ is a vicarious foray into the artist’s hallucinatory alternate reality. The installation is on view at the Queensland Art Gallery through April 19, 2015.
“Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.” – Yayoi Kusama.