Art Fix: Polka Dot Dreamscape at DAM

I’m one of those art viewers that really likes to go into an exhibition blind. I don’t want to know about an artist’s past work if I haven’t already seen it. I don’t need to know about the motivations of the specific collection of pieces before I arrive. I want to step over the threshold of a space and start my walk through it with a, “Huh. What’s going on here? ... Ooooo, that looks cool,” and then scurry off in the direction of whichever piece is closest to my wandering eyes. So, in this way, last Wednesday, I stepped inside, with blissful ignorance, the Daegu Art Museum’s exhibit of Kusama Yayoi’s A Dream I Dreamed. After getting tickets (5,000 won a pop), I walked (with my boyfriend in tow) into the three story atrium in the center of the museum. I always love art installations in this particular part of DAM. They make great use of the massive amount of space available, so the art itself feels larger than life, encompassing even, surrounding the viewer on all sides of 3D space with form, color, and light. Yayoi’s installation Dots Obsession (2013) is the perfect introduction to ease the viewer into her eclectic world of dots, lights, mirrors, and color. Giant fire-engine red and brilliant white polka-dot balls float in space, swaying slowly in the gentle breeze from viewers passing by. Others are lined in infinity mirrors and lights, allowing the viewer to step inside Yayoi’s myriad of environmental pieces. I instantly found myself in the unique place of feeling small outside the red orbs, yet infinite inside the mirrored rooms. This theme continues throughout - the viewer continues to feel both simultaneously part of the piece peering out as well as outside of the piece peering in.

Following this pleasingly spherical introduction, the two of us followed Yayoi’s work into the other galleries. There were large format paintings vibrating with complimentary colors and dizzyingly complex patterns. Interspersed in these structured visual cacophonies were rooms of more infinity mirrors that made video installations seem uncountable in number, ladders seem never ending, and that the lights of souls were everywhere. While infinity surrounded us with repeating visuals, I found myself experiencing the curious sensation of being wrapped up - not in the cozy sense of a blanket - but in the feeling of endlessness. In my smallness, I felt part of the vastness being explored, intrinsic to the art rather than extrinsic from it.

Moving upwards, the second floor housed large sculptures and environmental pieces that invited the viewer to walk more deeply into them. I’m Here, but Nothing (2000/2013), for example, was set up as a small living room in an apartment. Lit with only black lights, polka dot stickers glow eerily on dulled surfaces. We passed between typical household furnishings like the sofa and the coffee table, the tv and the bookshelf, yet not seeing the typical, but rather the glowing echos of images from the galleries we had already walked through.

Obliteration Room 2013

My absolute favorite piece of the show is The Obliteration Room (2013). In these two whitewashed rooms appointed with objects devoid of color, the viewer is invited to step inside and literally become part of the exhibit. The term interactive art doesn’t quite do the experience justice. Using small sheets of colorful polka dot stickers (provided by the gallery), users can interact with the piece by affixing the stickers however they see fit. I absolutely loved placing my stickers where I, and only I, thought they should go - alone on a wall, continuing someone else’s pattern on the bed, or arranged near another sticker group. It was fascinating to watch the other participants decide exactly where the individual round dots should go - each one becoming a little collection in part of the whole.

Beginning with the oversized red balls of Dots Obsession made me feel like such a tiny unwitting part of the whole thing, and then ending in The Obliteration Room left me feeling large and in control. A Dream I Dreamed was set up in such a perfectly cyclical way that I left feeling minute, and yet content with my small part. I found myself pleased and unafraid of the vastness of infinity that Kusama Yayoi so expertly explored. This was my experience of her eclectic, colorful version of forever. You should check it out for yourself and see what the exhibit says to you. A Dream I Dreamed will be at DAM through November 3rd.

DAM’s info on the exhibit


~ Kita Mendolia

Gleaming Lights of Souls (2008)