Yayoi Kusama is apparently Japan’s most famous living artist. Her latest exhibit at The Whitney ‘Fireflies on the Water’ has been causing a stir and is a precursor to a more extensive exhibition of her work opening in a week’s time. I actually have tried several times to get into see ‘Fireflies’ only to be told it’s sold out, which is something of a rarity for a contemporary art exhibit
Anyone hoping for time to get acquainted with the piece can hope in vain.
You are only allowed one solitary minute to experience it, one person at a time.
Tickets cost $18 dollars, which by my calculations is around 30 cents a second.
Not only that but you can’t just buy a ticket and walk in. Oh no. Instead you are given a specific time slot a couple of hours later, which has the effect of building expectations for what you are about to see to frenzied heights.
When my allotted time arrived I was allowed into a white room with two benches and a stand with some hand sanitizer and a box of tissues on it. Was this piece so precious that we would be required to remove all contaminants from our impure bodies before entering? No one would say but the young gallery spokeswoman did warn us that ‘Fireflies’ might prove ‘a little disorientating’ as if legions of previous viewers had swooned to a dead faint at the sight of it
Indeed as the person ahead of me entered the sealed room that housed this 60-second wonder I was half expecting to hear a sigh and then a crashing sound as she hit the floor as if pole axed by Mike Tyson.
While I waited I noticed that staff of the gallery where actually using a stopwatch to ensure that you didn’t go over your allotted exposure.
Finally I got the nod. With baited breath I entered the hallowed sanctum. The door closed behind me and finally ‘Fireflies’ and I were alone together. I looked around me and began to take it all in.
Basically what you get is a short six-foot platform surrounded by water. The walls and ceilings are glass. All around you hang fairy lights like the kind you might get on a Christmas tree.
The effect is more akin to standing on the edge of a skyscraper, while you look out of a city at night.
That sounds quite exciting but in reality it’s merely vaguely interesting. One of the previous viewers had said he could see goldfish in the water swimming about. Maybe there were but they were hiding from me.
As the seconds ticked by I waited for that sense of revelation that we all so want to get from art exhibit, particularly conceptual art pieces like this one. Well I did notice that my new summer trousers really did fit very well. I knew that because I could get a great all round view of me while I stood on the platform but then I could get that from a Prada changing room and unless I brought something, it wouldn’t cost me 18 dollars.
This was about the only intelligible thought I had during my sixty seconds along with ‘What am I doing here?”
Then the door was opened and I was summoned back into the firefly less world of the Whitney, safe in the knowledge that though I may not always be able to pick a great exhibit I am a dab hand at choosing pants.