Words and photos by Matthew Gozzip Staff Writer
Social media and art are inextricably linked. Whether it be stuntin’ in your latest outfit of the day on Twitter, sharing a quick film clip of an upcoming project on Facebook, or modifying a photograph to fit an Instagram feed, promoting posts on these social platforms all require artistic modification. There is no appreciation for them unless there is some sort of editing involved. This new “culture of curation” is being translated to consumption of art in museums and exhibits that predate the social media era.
The new exhibition at the Broad contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, “Infinity Mirrors: Yayoi Kusama” amplifies this anachronism to new heights. Yayoi Kusama, an icon in the art world, is known for her obsession with the infinity of the cosmic universe and humans’ place within it. She explores this concept through her world-renowned “infinity room” installations. These rooms create the illusion of a limitless space through the reflection of mirrored panels that line the walls of an enclosed space with different light fixtures and props.
In this new age of vanity, Kusama definitely is not ignorant to the new developments of the selfie and social media with her "Infinity Mirrors."
Museum-goers are given the opportunity to walk through these rooms and interact with them, becoming catalysts that activate the space.The exhibit utilizes six rooms filled with objects like illuminated pumpkins, pink speckled balls and speckled stuffed pillows molded into phallic shapes. It is a spectacular sight to behold with millions of dots, shapes and vibrant colors engulfing you in a sea of sensory delight.
And that’s the thing—it’s so overwhelming that the subject wants to document it. Hopefully to encapsulate it for later, or just show their followers how amazing it all is. Kusama’s work delves not only into her relationship with the infinite but also with her immediate environment.
From there, she creates infinite spaces by changing perceptions of what is happening around her: from reflections to the expressions of other people. In her photos, she lays on top of her arts and takes an overhead picture of the people watching her, some looking confused while others seem intrigued.
It’s hard not to wonder if Kusama helped form selfie culture or if she is mocking the people who are vain enough to take pictures in these fragile spaces. This raises another question: can we really understand and experience art if we aren’t present to witness it? The space is activated by a person. Without their physical being, there is doubt about the existence of the installation as a whole.
In this new age of vanity, Kusama definitely is not ignorant to the new developments of the selfie and social media. It seems at times people take pictures just to show others their experience on social media. That can distract from the immediate experience, especially when guests are shuttled in and out of the exhibits in half-minute intervals. If it is that imperative to be seen with the art, a quick photoshop session could do the job. Attempting to document the exhibits is not an inexcusable offense. However, taking time to find the best angle to fit your “feed” and ignoring the artist’s intent and intricate details is a disservice to Kusama’s brilliance.
What was just as fascinating as the rooms were the paintings, photographs and smaller installations littered through the exhibit. There wasn’t a concrete narrative or theme from area to area, but there were still some very thought-provoking pieces that were glossed over.
It’s hard not to wonder if Kusama helped form selfie culture or if she is mocking the people who are vain enough to take pictures in these fragile spaces.
That being said, this is a different kind of exhibition. The Broad displays work from more well-known and commercialized artists. For those who consider themselves purists, this is not a space to look down upon as a lesser realization of art. “Infinity Mirrors” is an incredible experience: an appreciation of the relationship of self and infinity, whether it be the perceptions of the art itself or the infinite social media posts that come with it.