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kusama: infinity

DIRECTOR: heather lenz (debut)


REVIEWER: purdie jenkins

Artist Yayoi Kusama's journey from a conservative upbringing in Japan to her brush with fame in America during the 1960s.

The name Yayoi Kusama might not be that familiar to you, compared to say Andy Warhol, which is exactly what this bittersweet documentary is about. A talented artist trying to break through and get recognition, the key difference is that not only is she a woman, but also Japanese. This documentary follows Kusama’s struggles from childhood to where she is now, a heartbreaking tale with a triumphant end.  


You may already be familiar with Kusama’s art, there was an installation at the Auckland Art Gallery last summer of The Obliteration Room, a pure white living room slowly covered in a rainbow of dots by visitors. Kusama’s dot art is her most well known style. The documentary though opens up the world to see her style evolve from watercolours, to soft sculpture, to mirrored installations, to huge outdoor sculptures.


Kusama: Infinity is a visual feast offering her many decades of artwork to the audience to completely devour. The documentary is a highlight reel of her artwork, with the stories being told of what struggles Kusama was facing at the time. Her life is looked at through a respectful lens, the audience is never too intimate with Kusama’s traumas.


Using archival footage, photographs, pictures of her artwork and plenty of interviews with people from her life and experts on her art, this documentary easily gets the audience invested in Kusama’s life. Her dealings with sexism and racism, along with a lot of rejection, it is a tragically beautiful tale, the uplifting moment is that she is still alive, making art and is recognised as the top living female artist.


It wasn’t the fact the world wasn’t ready for Yayoi Kusama’s art, the world wasn’t ready for her.

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