Computational Arts Research & Theory Blog

Post 8 - Nov 29th, 2018
Polka Dots, Pumpkins, and Project Update

One of the reasons I wanted to come to London was to be surrounded by and see as much art as possible. Europe and the UK in general are more woke to the idea of computational art than in the United States. In spite of piles of work (this course is relentless!), I managed to get to the Victoria Miro Gallery this week to see Yayoi Kusama's THE MOVING MOMENT WHEN I WENT TO THE UNIVERSE. The exhibition features new paintings, the My Eternal Soul series, painted bronze pumpkins, and an infinity mirrored room where colored LED lit painted Chinese lanterns are covered in Kusama’s signature polka dots.

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Yayoi Kusama, mirrored room with paper lanterns, 2018. Courtesy Victoria Miro, London.

The art of Yayoi Kusama brings up several thoughts for me. The first is that I was struck by how computational her paintings and sculptures seem (even though they are hand painted).

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Next, it is astonishing how long polka dots, pumpkins, and infinity experiences have been Kusama's focus for her entire life. Does having an enduring area of focus factor into success or achievement? I don’t mean necessarily monetary achievement, but much like how Manfred Mohr focused on the structure of the cube for forty years, does real knowledge or understanding only come from years of exploring the same subject? I also think about Kusama’s career and how she started painting in the US among the Avant-Garde and Pop Art elite of the 20th century like Warhol and Pollock and yet did not know real fame until her late 60’s. Lastly, I have only ever cried at one art exhibition which was at Kusama’s Gleaming Lights of the Souls Mirrored Infinity Room at The Louisiana Museum in Denmark in the Summer of 2018. I cried, rare real tears that rolled down my face and everything.
I'm not sure exactly why I cried. I didn't know that the infinity room was there until the day before I went. Having missed a travelling Kusama exhibition in DC, NYC, and SF, maybe it was the relief of finally seeing it. I also got to the Louisiana late in afternoon and there were barely any other people at the museum. I got to spend a fair amount of uninterrupted time in the infinity room as opposed to the usual maximum minute allowed. It was truly an intimate and magical experience.

Kusama is very of the moment and some people see her work as imminently Instagrammable, therefore popular. I agree with Jonathon Jones that Kusama’s pumpkins seem a little mechanistic in their repeated perfection and wide distribution almost like when an actor appears in too many films (I’m talking to you Franco!). Sarah Boxer has a more integrated opinion that the craze and Instagramibility of Kusama’s work is directly related to her Happenings in the 1960’s. The article ends up focusing on relational aesthetics and Kusama’s work fits right in. Has anyone not taken a selfie in a Kusama Infinity room?

"A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement ... Polka dots are a way to infinity." — Yayoi Kusuma, in Manhattan Suicide Addict

To find out more about Yayoi Kusuma check out the David Zwirner gallery website for Kusama's official bio, great photographs of her work, exclusive articles, and up-to-date exhibition listings.

Group Research Project Update

Our project is coming along but I feel overwhelmed by the research and am having little success boiling it down to provide a framework for our project. I am currently trying to read Human-Machines Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions by Lucy Suchman because I know this is the thesis of what we are trying to do. On Helen’s recommendation I am also reading articles by Daniela Rosner, Matt Ratto and Jentery Sayers. So far Matt Ratto’s articles, Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life and Introduction to the Special Forum on Critical Making as Research Program seem most relevant. Daniela Rosner’s article, Reshaping the Limits of Design in HCI also seems promising. I was happy to discover her article, Legacies of craft and the centrality of failure in a mother-operated hackerspace but I think it is for future reading. I also found a paper by Björn Franke titled Design as a Medium for Inquiry which is exactly what this group project is about!

This research will continue after this term so no time is wasted but it’s just right now, I don’t have the luxury of this rewarding in-depth yet time-consuming research. Every hour must be productive on this course and that is especially true now as we approach the end of the term and have to deliver final projects.

On another note, the internet doesn't think women know how to solder, but they sure look pretty.
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