Yayoi Kusama's famed 'The Obliteration Room' comes back to Tate Modern

Tate Modern invites visitors to take part in The Obliteration Room, one of Kusama’s most ambitious interactive works, by transforming a white space into a “sea of colourful dots”.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 29, 2022

Make a little 'colour dot' wherever you go. That is what the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, seemed to be making us all do. The princess of polka dots, as we all know her, creates a wide range of work, including paintings, sculptures, performances, and installations, all of which have one thing in common: dots! During her childhood, she was terrified by hallucinations. The flower heads were like dots that stretched as far as she could see, and she felt as if she was disappearing - or, as she puts it, 'self-obliterating' - into this field of limitless dots. This strange encounter affected the majority of her later work. The Obliteration Room, an interactive art piece by Kusama, has now returned to Tate Modern for its largest iteration, joining a summer of free art-inspired activities for all ages across Tate galleries.

Yayoi Kusama - The Obliteration Room 2002 - presented at Tate Modern in 2022 as part of UNIQLO Tate Play | STIRworld
Yayoi Kusama - The Obliteration Room 2002 - presented at Tate Modern in 2022 as part of UNIQLO Tate Play Image: Reece Straw; Courtesy of Tate Modern

The visitors to Tate Modern can change a white residential residence into a sea of colourful dots using vibrant stickers as part of UNIQLO Tate Play, Tate Modern's year-round family project in association with UNIQLO. Families visiting Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St Ives enjoy a variety of free creative activities and materials, while the launch of Tate Draw, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, at both London galleries and online, provides aspiring young artists with a new platform to create their digital drawings.

Children enjoying the Obliteration Room | STIRworld
Children enjoying The Obliteration Room Image: Reece Straw; Courtesy of Tate Modern

Mark Miller, Director of Learning, Tate, said: “It’s more important than ever before, that families in the local communities around Tate’s four galleries know that there are fun, creative, memorable experiences available to them here for free throughout the school holidays.”

Visitors participating in Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room | STIRworld
Visitors participating in Yayoi Kusama’s The Obliteration Room Image: Reece Straw; Courtesy of Tate Modern

The Obliteration Room, originally commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia, is one of Kusama's most extensive interactive works, reflecting the artist's continuous fascination with accumulation, obliteration, and becoming one with the artwork. Visitors are given a sheet of colourful dot stickers of varied sizes to apply anywhere they like to help change the room into a riot of colour, which begins as a completely white household area filled with all white furniture. UNIQLO Tate Play: The Obliteration Room at Tate Modern is the largest incarnation of this artwork to date, incorporating furniture and artefacts decorated with stickers contributed by people of the local community in Southwark.

Infinity Mirror Room at Tate Modern Image: Courtesy of Tate on Instagram

Kusama also develops dot worlds for us to experience this sense of self-obliteration. She calls these rooms Infinity Rooms, and produces them by putting hundreds of flashing coloured LED lights in mirrored rooms. The pinpricks of light in the black room reflect endlessly in the mirrors, giving the impression that you are in an apparent infinite area. The dots encircle and swallow you, making it difficult to discern where you finish and the rest of the room begins!

Yayoi Kusama with her signature polka dots work Image: Courtesy of Yayoi Kusama on Instagram

Kusama has had numerous successful works and projects. Infinity Nets, a series that commented on connected topics in her work despite its restricted ornate shape. The Accumulations, works of the 1960s, allowed Kusama's repeating art forms to find their maximum expression, frequently incorporating crowded canvases and objects with repeated optical themes. Narcissus Garden, Kusama's 1966 piece, has been interpreted in several ways as both self-promotion and a protest against the commercialisation of art. Her art installation piece Dots Obsession has her distinctive polka dots and mirrors, as well as gigantic, amorphous inflatable items in response to specific places. Kusama's interest expanded over time and has evolved into her characteristic dotted pumpkins.

Tate Exchange 20 Days workshop 2018 | Yayoi Kusama| STIRworld
Tate Exchange 20 Days workshop 2018 Image: Rob Harris111; Courtesy of Tate Modern

On August 13-14, The Obliteration Room will also host a house-warming party, celebrating one year of UNIQLO Tate Play with music and activities for all the family. Kusama’s Obliteration Room is live till August 29 this year at the Tate Modern gallery in London, United Kingdom.

Also read:
Yayoi Kusama elevates the landscape at New York Botanical Garden
When the ephemeral becomes eternal

(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))

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