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Small infinite spaces and the half empty/half full glass

The first time I experienced an infinity room was on the way to my dentist in North Vancouver, in the elevator. The elevator wall and ceiling are covered in mirrors, you see yourself and anyone else in the elevator repeated indefinitely in that space.

I like to think that Yayoi Kusama got her inspiration for the infinity rooms on her way to the dentist somewhere in a New York building.

Yayoi Kusama infinity mirrors exhibit in the SAM 2017

I went to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit in the Seattle art Museum in 2017, it was called infinity mirrors, then I went to see last week an exhibition with a similar concept in Richmond BC at the Moon and Back gallery.

Both exhibitions shared some of the same ideas like a lantern infinity room:

Lantern infinity room at the Moon and Back gallery
Yayoi Kusama Lantern infinity room
Yayoi Kusama
Moon and Back gallery
Yayoi Kusama exhibit
Moon and back gallery

You can clearly see more attention to details and more things to see in the Yayoi Kusama exhibit but the Moon and Back exhibit is more affordable and you don’t have to wait in a line up before each room. You can also stay longer because the place is not that crowded. In the Yayoi Kusama show, we could stay only about 1 minute in each infinity room and it felt rushed, you would take a lot of pictures but would not have the time to enjoy the experience of just being in the room.

Having been at both shows raised a few questions for me:

  • Is there a copyright for art installations and infinity rooms in particular ? Is the Moon and Back gallery ripping off an artist of her ideas by making a copy of her work or is it democratizing a simple idea that can be declined in many different ways and versions? Many people here could not have made the trip to Seattle to see a show but will probably be able to make the trip to Richmond.

Then there is the question of the participation of the audience and an optimistic or pessimistic way to look at it:

  • The glass half empty look: We know that we are becoming a self obsessed culture and this is visible in particular when you travel. It is not anymore just the Eiffel tower or the beautiful beach in Hawaii, it is me in front of the Eiffel tower or me at the beach, we all do that now. A tour vendor in Mexico was even trying to sell us a tour by saying that we would take beautiful pictures that would be sure to make our friends jealous on social media. Is the art world and installations following that trend by giving us exhibitions that are clearly tailored to allow us to take interesting pictures of ourselves to share on social media? The exhibit at the Moon and Back is obviously designed to facilitate selfies in fun environments. Is it bad? I don’t know but it is clearly fun.
Selfie at the Moon and Back gallery
  • The glass half full look : These kind of exhibitions are allowing the viewer to participate instead of being the passive viewer or recipient of a show. Everybody has their cellphone out and are taking pictures, having fun with that environment and trying to come up with creative ideas to record that experience. So that is a very positive element because in a way the visitors are actively using the exhibit as a springboard to make their own art: creative pictures.
Taking pictures at the Moon and Back gallery

Leaving the gallery, I was thinking about the experience of infinity rooms, if you wanted to take it further than the opportunity to take a selfie, what is this all about? A brush with the mystique or the divine, a glance at the beauty of repetition in an infinite universe the way atomic structures or stars can be repetitive, a powerful illusion of eternity fitting in a small space? Yayoi Kusama talks about an out of body experience, so maybe, in the end, an infinity room show can be as light or as meaningful as the viewer will make it to be.

As usual I am looking forward to your thought and comments below !

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