Yayoi Kusama is having a moment.
Or maybe, the fact that I’m noticing she’s having a moment really means that she was having a moment, because I just don’t think I’m cool enough to pick up on things while they are first happening.
Right now her art is everywhere.
Sameer and I managed to sneak into her infinity room exhibit at the Tate modern, she’s had a major collab with Louis Vuitton in the past months, and I even found one of her mirrored rooms at while I was visiting Toronto.
Of course, part of this might be confirmation bias (once you notice a thing, you suddenly can’t stop seeing it), or even ‘actively seeking out’ bias. Because when I saw that Yayoi had a show at something called ‘Factory International’ up in Manchester, I used it as an excuse to propose a weekend away, to visit both the city and the nearby Peak district.
A little bit of art, a little bit of city, a little bit of walking.
We arrived in the city, threw our stuff down at our airbnb and headed back out again.
It turns out that the city is quite pretty, and also contains some nice buildings that make me think very strongly of the before times and hands and always looking back *
(*kinda niche reference directly aimed at Ashlee).
Anyway, we arrived at the exhibit, and then had a lot of trouble getting our tickets scanned.
Which, as it turned out, was because we were in Manchester the wrong weekend.
Apparently when I booked the tickets six months earlier I’d added the ticket dates into our calendar one week too late.
I quietly went into a shame spiral, while Sameer solved the problem. Put simply- we asked nicely, they felt bad for us, and we went on in.
Into the arms of Yayoi:
Actually, to get to the main hall – which was basically a huge hanger for airplanes- you had to first go through a smaller yellow-y bit.
In case you’re wondering about the dots:
- they’re kind of Yayoi’s thing.
- they’re supposed to be a bit about the interconnectedness of humans
The reason for the pumpkins is less clear.
(The tentacles, I think we all have our suspicions about).
We spent a bit of time roaming the big hall…
.. while the chanting that was coming out of the video of Yayoi made Sameer more and more uncomfortable
…. and then we walked around what I would call the ‘main event’- a bunch of pink tentacles
We looked inside a spot:
…and we queued a very very long time to go inside a small tent that had something akin to an infinity room in it:
Akin, but not quite right. While the dots and mirrors were cool, it was nothing even close to the amazing rooms of hers we had seen before.
And definitely not something I’d queue for an hour to see again!
All up, the show was interesting, but made us think a lot about what it means to be an artist and create new work- particularly when you have already made it.
Overall, while the scale here was impressive, we couldn’t help but feel like the art was missing something. It lacked cohesion and something extra to take it beyond what we already new from the artist. We ended up spending a lot of time discussing what exactly we wanted to see from the exhibit (maybe if the tentacles moved???), and thinking about how the current work felt more detached than some of the stuff we’d seen about Yayoi’s earlier work.
We did a small walk around the city, and were interested to see the huge amount of development that seems to be going on (there’s some discussion going on about spreading the wealth/art/opportunities more across the country, rather than just having everything in London).
And then, of course, we managed to find a pretty nice dinner, complete with dumplings.
All of it was good, except the dessert, which somehow made up for the lack of tastiness with it’s dragon-egg name, which allowed me to briefly be my alter-ego Smug the Dragon.
For some reason that I don’t remember, Sameer was also allowed to be a snake/lizard/idk-maybe-butterfly??
In the evening, we did a spot more wandering, which led us into the very -vibrant and bustling Gay district, complete with Turing-dedicated gardens and an ongoing festival for Trans people.
And then, we called it a night, ready for our Early Morning (hah!) hiking session.
That’s all folks!
July 7th, 2023