Yayoi Kusama’s latest spotted masterpiece is not a feast merely for the eyes. It is a multi-sensory experience that overwhelms all of the senses, from the eyes to the ears to the touch. The David Zwirner Gallery has been refitted to house a one-room home that looks totally normal from the outside. It has a front door, two front windows and black shutters. One could imagine it nested between two identical houses in suburbia.
But there is DEFINITELY not a house in Westchester that looks like this one. The room is a living room/kitchen hybrid, painted entirely white, and yet covered in lots of little spots. But there is no particular arrangement to the spots, because they are adhered to the walls and the fridge (and the floor and the laptop… ) by visitors. Each person is given a sticker sheet with about 20 stickers of different sizes, and is told to place them wherever he or she likes in the space. I had a lot of fun making a little pattern on the wall with mine, and my friend tried to stick them in hard-to reach places. I saw kids accidentally stick them on themselves, and slightly older kids purposefully stick them on themselves. The business of the room created a buzz of sound that felt at home in this, well, home.
I wondered what “Give Me Love” was supposed to BE, aside from a great photo-op for Instagram (guilty). It’s part of a genre called Participatory Art, which depends on the participation of the audience to create the final product. Final, of course, is a relative term, because the nature of participatory art is that it keeps evolving as more audiences become engaged. Who these audiences are also affects the work. If everyone who came to see “Give Me Love” was determined to spell phrases with the stickers, it would look very different from a scenario in which all the visitors want to color code the walls. What I like about participatory art is that it turns the definition of art and what it means to be an artist on its head. If all these “non-artists” can create something so beautiful, then why ARE they categorized as non-artists? Is there a level of skill required to create something worthy of being “art?”
Despite the fact that “Give Me Love” questions the definition of art, it is in no way, in my opinion, a representation of “My kid could do that.” If you have ever gone to a popular modern art museum during peak hours, you have probably overheard several loud, grumpy adults utter that exact phrase. Here, it is clear that your kid definitely can do that. In fact there she is, doing it right now. But that’s not the point. The beauty is in the concept of taking a house, and hiding within it a colorful, tangible world of wonder. What started as a totally blank canvas has been colored in by visitors eager to add more beauty to the page. This notion is what leaves a pleasant feeling in your chest when you leave David Zwirner Gallery.
But right as you leave the house, you’ll notice that behind the interactive exhibit are pieces created by Kusama herself. These large silver sculptures resemble vegetables covered in spots. And inside, there is a series of paintings created from teeny tiny little dots. When you step back, these particles buzz with frenetic energy. These pieces are not participatory. By combining the sticker room with completed works, it seems that Kusama is making a commentary on the artistic process. Inside the house, visitors inhabit the steps it takes to create a work of art. Outside of the house, visitors marvel at the sculptures and paintings that are created from these steps, only multiplied. It is an exciting duality to live in and walk in Kusama’s creative inspirations and then to see how they manifest themselves in finished works. It is truly a unique experience.
The exhibit closes at David Zwirner on June 13th! For once I can actually suggest you bring your screaming children (it honestly made it very fun, but then again I haven’t babysat in a while and I’m going through cute child withdrawal). Bring your teenager obsessed with Instagram, and your brother who doesn’t think art is fun. They will all love it. I promise.
Come down and make some art 🙂
xoxo, Chloe <3