abstract image of blue circles and circles containing photos of people taking photos with their phones

Longing for Eternity (2017) by Yayoi Kusama. The Broad (Los Angeles, CA).

One Dot in a Million: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms and the Impact of Social Media

My thesis focuses on the life and work of Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) as a case study to examine how social media is changing the ways we experience art. Kusama is a Japanese artist who moved to New York in 1958 and is most well known for her Infinity Mirror rooms that are pervasive on social media. Today, there exist well over one million digital images of her famous mirrored and immersive installations on Instagram alone. I argue that the example of Kusama and her work shows how an artist who was once excluded from the predominantly white and male New York avant-garde scene because of her double outsider status can be catapulted to icon status through social media. Not only that, but social media has served as more than a mechanism of advertisement for her career and work. Rather, the images proliferated on digital platforms of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror rooms have become important extensions of her concepts of the self and the universe. While Kusama’s contemporary fame can in no way be wholly attributed to her Instagram popularity, it is evident that some of her recognition is due to social media. This case study serves as the basis for my argument that social media is in fact democratizing the art world by challenging the elitism of museums and making art and artists outside the Western canon more visible. Furthermore, by considering the scholarly implications of social media I have been able to consider how subjecthood and representations of identity and the self are changing in the digital era.