Kusama’s variety of performances spanned the orgiastic and the activistic. In 1968, she staged “Anatomic Explosion” happenings that included nude “Body Festivals” at sites such as Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York Stock Exchange. Participants stripped down and burned American flags to protest the Vietnam War. Kusama would alert the press to make sure the events were well documented, as her lawyer looked out for approaching police. Kusama yelled: “Stock is a fraud…money made with this stock is enabling the war to continue…[o]bliterate Wall St. men with polka dots on their naked bodies!”
She extended her voice all the way to the oval office in a letter to Richard Nixon. “Let’s forget ourselves, dearest Richard, and become one with the Absolute,” she wrote. “As we soar through the heavens, we’ll paint each other with polka dots, lose our egos in timeless eternity, and finally discover the naked truth: You can’t eradicate violence by using more violence.” During one of her performances, she also distributed an open letter to Nixon that read: “Anatomic explosions are better than atomic explosions.”
Kusama’s performances embodied “self-obliteration,” her belief that positives and negatives of endlessly replicated infinite patterns blurred to obliterate notions of the self.