“I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated”, renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama explains. This experience as a child informed her most recent work, ‘Flower Obsession’.
Commissioned for the National Gallery of Victoria’s inaugural Triennal, ‘Flower Obsession’ is an immersive installation that invites guests to “obliterate” a room with flower stickers — and in doing so, to enact Kusama’s childhood memory. The flowers, like dots and nets, are Kusama’s leitmotifs — and their appearance first came to her during childhood. Born in 1929 in the Japanese Alps, she began seeing a psychiatrist at the age of 10 after she began experiencing visions were dots, nets, and flowers covered everything that she saw. In an interview with Justin McCurry, she explains, “I call them my repetitive vision. I still see them. [They] cover the canvas and grow on to the floor, the ceiling, chairs and tables. Then the polka dots move to the body, on to my clothes and into my spirit. It is an obsession.” Upon entering ‘Flower Obsession’, guests are given fake gerbera flowers and stickers which they are invited to place on any surface on their choosing. At the conclusion of the four-month Triennal, the room has, as Kusama wished, been “obliterated”.