Yayoi Kusama, Fireflies on the Water, 2002, mirror, plexiglass, 150 lights and water
Dr. Lilly’s isolation tank, Dr. Reich’s orgone accumulator, Dr. Who’s TARDIS - all small spaces offering entrance into the infinite… and Freudian narratives. Add to this list Yayoi Kusama’s 2002 work Fireflies on the Water, a single room installation the Whitney has remounted in the lead-up to her much discussed retrospective in July. As this behind-the-scenes article shows, the chamber is - as her installations often are - confined and mirrored. In addition to the echoing effect created by walls of facing mirrors, the floor is covered with water except for a narrow dry walkway provided to view the 150 small lights that manage to create a vertiginous recursion of endless images. With only one gallery-goer let into the room at a time, expect lineups.
Call it an amusement ride for inner space, Fireflies on the Water is the kind of refreshingly ideology-free installation that Kusama has been creating during an unprecedented late career renaissance. I can’t think of a single other artist who started her practice in the 1950s that is still making work this good, likable and, for viewers at home, infinitely sharable on the Internet.
The Whitney Museum of American Art: http://whitney.org/
Fireflies on the Water continues until September 30.
Yayoi Kusama opens on July 12 and continues until September 30.
Brian Joseph Davis is a screenwriter and the author of Portable Altamont, a book that garnered praise from Spin for its “elegant, wise-ass rush of truth, hiding riotous social commentary in slanderous jokes.” A co-founder of the literary website Joyland, his work was recently included in Against Expression: An anthology of conceptual writing. He is Akimblog’s New York City correspondent.
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