It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since worldwide interest in Yayoi Kusama’s interactive project The obliteration room was sparked by a single post on Colossal, leading to appearances on Boing Boing, Creative Review, Huffington Post and Wired. (There’s way more obliteration and inspiration in our online catalogue, by the way internauts!)
Our press team have been busy following up media enquiries from London to Lahore, Bangkok to Buenos Aires, while every day the installation is re-blogged and re-tweeted to countless millions, and thousands pour through the gallery doors to grab a sheet of stickers.
The whole thing is proliferating like so many polka dots. If there was ever an indication of just how broad the audience for contemporary art has grown, this is it.
For me, the extraordinary popularity of this work and the ‘Look Now, See Forever’ exhibition as a whole raises the question about what it is about Yayoi Kusama that makes her so relevant right now — especially for an artist in her 80s. With six decades of work behind her, she’s in greater demand than ever, with another major exhibition of new work just opening at Osaka’s National Museum of Art, and her travelling retrospective opening this week at London’s Tate Modern before heading to the Whitney in New York.
Let’s be clear about this: her work looks great in reproduction, and people love a good, simple, elegantly executed idea. But what I find personally interesting is the way Kusama positions viewers at the centre of the work – not just in ‘The obliteration room’, but her in sculptures, installations, videos and larger paintings as well.
We’re beginning to see this approach more and more in museums everywhere. But it’s also perfectly in keeping with new media technologies and their impact on the way we experience, discuss and produce culture, life and love. Spectatorship has itself become a form of cultural production and participation, to a point where blogging and tweeting about a work of art can be seen as extensions of picking up a dot and pasting it to a wall, television or piano.
As I’ve said before elsewhere, Yayoi Kusama is more of her time now than at any other point in her career. This is one reason why we decided that ‘Look Now, See Forever’ would be an exhibition of new work. Watching dots obliterate the internet is just one more case in point.
Late last week, the Tate Modern announced that The obliteration room will be included in its Kusama retrospective, which opens this week. It will be the first time the work has been recreated outside of Brisbane.
Additionally, a very generous benefactor has supported the Queensland Art Gallery’s acquisition of one of the four Flowers that bloom at midnight currently appearing in ‘Look Now, See Forever’. This major acquisition, which was only possible due to the Gallery’s ongoing relationship with the artist, makes QAG’s collection of Kusama’s work one of the most significant in a public museum outside Japan.