2018, Psychology, Society

Infinity Mirrors by Yayoi Kusama

I do not normally write about art. I go to art exhibits at least a few times a year (more when I travel) but I never write about them. One reason is that I have long felt I do not have the education to find the language to discuss paintings or art installations, at least online. (I will talk your ear off about Turner in person.) But I feel compelled to at least write something brief about the “Infinity Mirrors” phenomenon having now seen it.

I went this afternoon to see the most buzzed about art exhibit I can remember in my lifetime. I went to the exhibition for free, because my partner is a member and gets in to these things for free. But we still had to take time off work. We go to the AGO multiple times of year and have never experienced the crowd control made necessary by this exhibition. Everything about this experience is different than a normal AGO exhibition.

It’s a strange thing to go to see an art exhibit and to be left thinking about the behaviour of people towards the exhibit, rather than the exhibit itself. In fact, hours removed from the exhibit, it’s basically all I can think about: why is this particular exhibit so significant, so important to so many people? (The short answer is Instragram. As Jenn put it, if this had been put on in 1998, would anyone have cared?) After waiting in line to go in, and waiting in line for each and everyone one of the “rooms,” all I can think about is why this is so attractive.

And what the intention really is. Kusama claims to be someone with revolutionary politics. But if these mirror rooms are indeed somehow revolutionary, I feel like a free public installation is much more democratic, much more in line with whatever the message is, than an assembly line of human photographers being funneled in for 20-30 seconds at a time.

Was it worth it? Have you ever been in a fun-house mirror maze as a kid? Have you seenĀ Man with the Golden Gun? Well, if either of those is true, you’ve seen the lesser of these rooms. The better ones have flashing lights (and darkness) and so are at least a little more interesting. But, had I paid whatever a ticket cost (or thought about it in work hours lost) I would not say it was worth it. I want art to speak to me without having to worry about how others react, but it’s impossible to separate this exhibit from the narcissists of Instagram, who only want pictures and who don’t go see the other exhibits because they don’t make for the same kinds of photo ops. All I can think about is “Why this?” rather than something actually inspired by seeing one of these rooms. (By the way, the planes of glass and the platforms take away from the illusion of “infinity.” They are necessary, but they still remind you that you’re in the world.)

Yes, art is social. But art should communicate to the viewer even when the viewer does not know what other people think of it. But I don’t know what I think of this because so much of my experience of it is tied up with line-ups and the briefest experience of whatever it’s supposed to be saying. Frankly, I’d rather look at paintings. (There were paintings, too…)

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