May 14, 2009

You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Firefly Swarm

In an odd corner of the second floor of the south gallery of the Phoenix Art Museum I noted a white arrow stenciled on the beige wall. It pointed towards a dark gap in the otherwise bright gallery. There, tucked into the black cavern, was another stencil, this on white on black, beckoning one in. Cautiously I stepped into the darkness, inching forward slowly around the corner. My eye caught movement and I paused. I made out the dark on dark backlit form of myself in the unlit mirrored wall. I turned again and noticed a small green light hanging from a thin black wire at eye level before my face. It slowly changed from green to blue then faded away. I noticed another. And another. And a hundred-thousand more. I inched forward another cautious step. I slowly realized what I was seeing. A great grin cracked my face and I smiled, oh, how I smiled, there in the dark for no one to see. I smiled until my face hurt and would have laughed but I was too delighted to even think of it.

I walked forward amid the slowly breathing lights. I found the mirrored walls more by instinct than anything else. I stood and slowly turned, trying to grasp the tiny size of the vast space within which I stood, the hushed footfalls of the lofty galleries behind me far, far away. It was utterly dark, like space, yes, but a warm and welcoming space filled with tiny pulsing lights which illuminate nothing. Behind me, one or two swung where I had brushed them in passing, before coming to rest again. The colors would shift, a mix of blue, green, and yellow, and some lights would go out or come on, moving through an intense range of colors to only a very few sparse red sparks.

I found the exit and came out, still silently laughing into the bright gallery, only to follow my own footsteps back to the entrance. This time, I strolled in with less hesitation but no less delighted wonder. I found a spot that felt to be in the middle, and sat cross legged. I rested my wrists on my knees and simply was. I took my glasses off and let the tiny lights fuzz like an impressionist painting. It was far beyond a transcendental experience, because this was not something manufactured by my mind, but my her mind, Yayoi Kusama, the artist, and told to us in a whisper of light, bestowed like a gift of water to one who didn’t even know they were dying of thirst. It is the greatest work of art I have ever encountered.

We should all be so obliterated.


Anonymous said...

Amy loves it too. I'm going to go see it soon.

Amy said...

I absolutely adore that installation. When I discovered it, my reaction was nearly identical to yours. It is the most transcendent piece of art that I've ever experienced. I've spent hours in there, and every time I've gone I've been just as in awe in the first.

By the by, I assume you saw the convex/concave resin sculpture by Anish Kapoor that stands at the opening to the modern wing? What did you think of it? It's another one of my favorites. It certainly doesn't have the emotional impact that You Who Are Obliterated... does, but the disorienting quality to it absolutely mesmerizes me.

Monica said...

I noticed the Kapoor piece but didn't really pay it any mind. I should have looked closer. I generally enjoy disorienting art, anything that shifts your focus or perception.