January 22, 2018
by James Bligh
The spaces we design have order and understanding: plans, elevations, a parti. The spaces we inhabit contain things we recognize: named objects that give meaning and security; borders and boundaries that we can see. But when you enter an Infinity Room, there’s none of that. You are
in space, where there is no reference to anything else. Kusama has created an un-space, an illusory space. Or maybe the opposite, as the title has it, an infinite space. To those of us whose profession is predicated on defining, measuring, and crafting physical space, it’s thrilling.
Photo by Cathy Carver. Courtesy of David Zwirmer
Like The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson’s 2003 installation at the Tate Modern, and Moshe Safdie’s Yad Vashem Children’s Holocaust Memorial completed in Jerusalem in 1987, the Infinity Rooms have lights and mirrors that reflect each other to expand the dimensions of the room beyond comprehension. (The material list includes wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting, acrylic balls and water.) Kusama has arranged a series of very compact rooms—in material terms, less than 14 feet by 10 feet and with a platform barely large enough for two or three people to crowd onto—but once you are inside, the dimensions vanish. The orbs of light seem to be floating in space, and no matter which way you look, you will see more and more and more lights, with no end, everywhere, with the exception of a small black strip of floor on which you stand.
You’ll notice and be irritated by the 30-second time limit: it’s much too short. You leave the room before you fully comprehend it. Just enough time to enter the space, appreciate that you’ve found something extraordinary, and then get kicked out by museum staff. But you want to stay there all day, contemplating this tiny space that ironically seems to go on forever. It’s like being in a dream where you sense that you are about to wake up, and you don’t want the dream to end, but with the gallery staff’s sharp rap on the door, it’s over. All you are left with is your memory, enough for the mind to fill in the blanks that transcend the reality.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is on exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto from March 3 to May 27. Advance ticket sales began January 16th.
James Bligh is an intern architect with Proscenium Architecture + Interiors in Vancouver.