You who are getting obliterated in the dancing swarm of fireflies

I’ve been attending the Americans for the Arts’s Emerging Leader Council’s winter meeting in Phoenix for the past few days, convening in the amazing Phoenix Art Museum. Today we got a guided tour of the modern and contemporary art exhibits, with some background and explanation of several pieces.

My favorite is “You who are getting obliterated in the dancing swarm of fireflies” by Yayoi Kusama. You enter a dark space with what appears to be hundreds of small LED pendent lights hung on black cables from the ceiling, and must determine how to walk to the exit.

It is the closest thing to being removed from your body.

The lights glow and change color, then fade out intermittently. The space creates an almost nauseating vertigo because, despite your best efforts, you cannot perceive depth or distance. The walls are mirrors, multiplying the lights several times over so that it feels endless, formless. And the floor is black and polished, somewhat reflective as well. It was just so stunning.

There were many fantastic pieces we saw. One was made out of 7 tons of paper laid edge-out, color-graded from yellow to blue and pink to yellow (on opposite walls). Another featured charred beams and bits from a burned Baptist church threaded onto wires and then hung vertically from the ceiling.

I wish I had another day to go exploring. They have a significant fashion collection as well, and I heard today they were given several Halston pieces that I really would have liked to see. But, as it was, I did get to sneak through their Geoffrey Beene exhibit….

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