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YAYOI KUSAMA 1968

Yayoi Kusama’s astonishing New York performances of 1968; Anatomic Explosion and Mirror Performace. Kusama’s early practice involved a number of performances and happenings throughout the 1960s. These examined the artist’s personal, social and political concerns whilst illustrating her ability to engage with multiple creative forms.

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The Anatomic Explosion were a series of Happenings, staged in front of the statue of George Washington across from the New York Stock Exchange, the Statue of Liberty, St. Marks Church, the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, the United Nations Building, the United Federation of Teachers on Wall Street, the Board of Elections headquarters and on the subway. These perfermances were documented by photography duo Harry Shunk and János Kender.

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These performances were staged together with protests against the war in Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and capitalism generally.

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Along with her perfeormaces Kusama offered a series of manifestos-qua-press-releases whose tone echoed the wild conviction of her art. “Burn Wall Street. Wall Street men must become farmers and fisherman. Wall Street men must stop all of this fake ‘business.’ OBLITERATE WALL STREET MEN WITH POLKA DOTS. OBLITERATE WALL STREET MEN WITH POLKA DOTS ON THEIR NAKED BODIES. BE IN … BE NAKED, NAKED, NAKED.”

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Mirror Performance was an ecstatic gathering of costumed, painted, and nude bodies within one of Kusama’s mirrored chambers. It was also documented by photographers Harry Shunk and János Kender. Kusama appeals directly to the public, as well as shocking audiences into reassessing their own notions of art and its relation to culture.

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Kusama used the mirror to expand her pervasive themes of repetition, obsession, and immersion, it was the ideal medium for her countercultural protest.

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Photographers Harry Shunk and János Kender worked together under the name Shunk-Kender from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, based first in Paris and then in New York. They photographed artworks, events, landmark exhibitions, portraits of artists and participated in collaborative projects of the vibrant art scene of the time.

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Self Obliteration performaces, 1967.


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