'Orgy of the Non-Self', a review of Yayoi Kusama

Berry, Josephine. 2012. 'Orgy of the Non-Self', a review of Yayoi Kusama. Mute, 3(3), [Article]

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Yayoi Kusama can paint, I mean really paint. Her early works, displayed in the Tate Modern retrospective, would take you by surprise if you had her pegged as that dotty lady, the one whose only idea is to cover every available surface with polka dots. But the logic of the dots seems to have developed with surprising continuity from these early paintings, their rhythms and patterns, which explore accumulation as the constitutive force of the cosmos. Like Daniel Buren and his stripes, there is a tension in her later dotty work between a signature device which risks becoming a deadening calling card of identity, and the use of an accumulative gesture which generates fields, states and environments beyond the provenance of their creator. With Kusama’s work, the later installations as much as the early paintings, repetitive gestures comprise a code which builds out from identity and even art, to produce patterns which throb with a cosmic pulse of creation. Her painstakingly rendered dots, which should at all costs be distinguished from those sweated out in Damian Hirst’s accumulation factory, also presently on display at Tate Modern, share with the early paintings the power to reflect and induce the joyful agony of self-obliteration. ‘Self-obliteration’, a phrase she developed in the ’60s during her Body Festival phase, is the necessary stake of her creativity, but one that always menacingly threatens a collapse into self-destruction.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


1 May 2012Published

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Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2015 13:31

Last Modified:

07 Nov 2019 16:21



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