(Revisiting) Yayoi Kusama and Hallucinations – RESULTS OF OBSCURED REFLECTIONS ON THE THE SENSE OF SELF

Yayoi Kusama has explored the philosophical concepts through her obsession with dots, which she gives us an ability to almost  visualise and comprehend what infinity is. She makes the unimaginable, unthinkable infinity of space our brains cannot usually comprehend into something that we can visualise, in a beautiful way. Using psychedelic colours, repetition and pattern inspired from her hallucinations, she creates an immersive environment that engulfs the viewer into another world – inducing a hypnotic state. Kusama describes why her iconic polka dot is so relevant:

A polka-dot has the form of the sun which is the symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also from the moon which is calm. Round, soft, colourful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement. Polka-dots are a way to infinity’ (Time is Art, 2014)

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Kusamas’ ‘Peep Show’, 1966, consisted of a hexagonal mirrored room, encompassed with lights flashing along to pop records, creating an immersive environment for the viewer. They become one object within a room of many; the reflection of yourself becomes multiplied to infinity, your own eyes looking in on to the installation becomes infinite. As mentioned before, public spectators are only allowed to look within, as the name ‘Peep Show’ suggests, however, Kusama herself dressed to mimic the installation then photographed herself within the interior. She said to:

‘Become one with eternity. Obliterate your personality. Become part of your environment. Forget yourself. Self-destruction is the only way out […] I become part of the eternal and we obliterate yourself in love.’ (Yayoi Kusama poster for the first ‘Self Obliteration’ performance, 1968).

These ideas are typical of 1960’s, the free love and psychedelic fantasy of the shared love ideas of escapism through breaking up of reality. Through studying her words, the obscuration of space here clearly has a vast impact on the Kusama. Whether this work was produced as a response to the effects of the struggles within her own consciousness, or whether the piece was produced and her consciousness was affected thereafter, there is undoubtedly a link between the disruption of the installation space and her mind. From 1977, Kusama voluntarily moved herself to a psychiatric institution where she still works, demonstrating an obsessiveness and desire to escape from her psychological traumas that continue to haunt her life. As this study has explored in  previous chapter (following on from Descartes Evil Devil Theory, in chapter one), we know that a hallucination cannot have the strength to forge a whole new reality. However, it is well known and well documented that hallucinations are a real phenomenon that affect people greatly.

A hallucination can be a physical effect of the brain’s activities that can occur for a number of different reasons, not just through mental illnesses such as schizophrenia; people can experience a lapse in perception of events, a different reality to what is considered ‘normal.’ Subconsciously, a human brain filters through what it believes to be important, alongside the views, memories and feelings which we draw upon, and which affect everything that we see. Our cognitions organise the external stimulus from the world, to what we perceive as ‘real’ – an approximate reality in which our minds make up.

On the other hand, mediation is one practice used by many people to try to escape their consciousness – into hallucinations of one’s own free will. For example, within Buddhism, the stages of enlightenment are only experiences through repetition of this method, eventually reaching Nirvana. This demonstrates how hallucinations are not always seen as negative occurences and implies that sometimes the cause of a hallucination can become important than the hallucination itself. However, if it was a drug or mental illness that caused the hallucination, then the cause itself becomes the problem, rather than it being justified through religious uses.


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