Performing the Self:
Yayoi Kusama and Her
Dissolution and accumulation. Proliferation and frag-
mentation. The feeling of myself obliterating and the
reverberation from the invisible universe. What are
“The Struggle and Wanderings of My Soul”
Like Vincent van Gogh, Yayoi Kusama has been associated with a stereotype of a “mad artist” because of her long-term mental illness. Largely due to her oppressed childhood under the Japanese militarist campaign, her parents’ strict discipline, and traumatic experiences, Kusama started to have hallucinations at a young age. As a child, she would draw images of her hallucinatory visions, later these images were developed into various art forms. Her prolific and obsessive-compulsive style of artmaking was established early because it was necessitated by her desire to overcome the symptoms of her mental illness. She would continue the same intensive style of artmaking in New York between 1958 and 1972. Shortly after returning to Tokyo in 1973, Kusama admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital and has lived and worked there ever since. Kusama’s peculiar circumstance has led art historians to presume her psychological state and simplify interpretation of her work. Much of the scholarship on Kusama tends to overemphasize her illness as a solely cause of her artistic creation.