In 1965, Kusama erected the first of her now-famous immersive environments. Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (Floor Show) fused her interests in repetition, sexual exploration, psychology, and perception by filling a roughly 25-square-meter mirrored room with a thick carpet of soft, twisting phalluses camouflaged in the artist’s signature polka dots. Visitors were encouraged to enter the room and interact with the total environment, where their reflection repeated endlessly against a field of odd sensual forms so pliable and lumpy, they looked alive. The experience, as curator Catherine Taft has written, created a kind of “psychosexual encounter with one’s own body and image.”
Kusama saw the room as the manifestation of a “long-cherished dream” to be sublimated by her own art. There, she entered a space that existed beyond everyday life and psychological trauma: “Like Alice, who went through the looking-glass, I, Kusama, (who have lived for years in my famous, specially-built room entirely covered by mirrors), have opened up a world of fantasy and freedom,” she later wrote.
Other artists took note of the heady effects of Kusama’s first Infinity Room
on the viewer—and on the avant-garde 1960s art world. Shortly thereafter,
created his own mirrored environment. “He did it again,” Kusama remembered saying when she saw the work. “I hope Lucas pursues the path of creativity and pain inherent in artists from now on, instead of following what Kusama has done.”
Since 1965, Kusama has produced over 20 “Infinity Mirror” rooms, including one for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1993 Venice Biennale. In recent years, they’ve become the major draw of Kusama retrospectives, transporting viewers into a kaleidoscopic black hole of shimmering dots, while also providing the perfect backdrop for a selfie sure to inspire lots of likes.