Love, Dots and Peace
Infinity Dots is a sublime, instantly arresting and technically virtuosic archetype that encapsulates Kusama's ubiquitous polka-dot aesthetic, which the artist regards as a symbol of "love and peace". While Kusama's affixation with polka dot hails from a childhood trauma, the dots represent possibly the most positive and optimistic motif of her oeuvre, especially when compared against the more ominous net motif. The artist once said: "dots and accumulation of particles forming the negative spaces in the net... I wanted to examine the single dot that was my own life" (Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, Tate Publishing, 2011, p. 23). The single dot accordingly became a symbol of her determination and desire to challenge the infinity of the unbounded universe. By the late 1960s, polka dots had become a trademark of Kusama's iconic Happenings and various other ventures of the period, usually seen daubed onto the bodies of both herself and her performers. When Kusama established her 'Body Painting Enterprise' nude studios, she employed young models who served as canvases, allowing participants to paint polka dots onto their bare figures. Audience members were also encouraged to strip and paint on one another.
In her autobiography she shares this sentiment: "The red and green and yellow dots might represent the circle of earth, or of the sun or moon, or whatever you like. Defining them was not important. What I was asserting was that painting polka-dot patterns on a human body caused that person's self to be obliterated and returned him or her to the natural universe... by covering my entire body with polka dots, then covering the background with polka dots as well, I find self-obliteration. The form disappears and assimilates into the dots, and when that happens, I too am obliterated. The ground—or the mesh of the net—is negative, and the polka dots placed upon the ground are positive. The positive and negative become one and consolidate my expression. And that is when I achieve obliteration" (Ibid., p. 47).
In her 1967 experimental film 'Kusama's Self Obliteration', the artist fixates on the sole purpose of the polka dot and its ability to obliterate oneself in the face of the vast universe: "One polka dot: a single particle among billions. I issued a manifesto stating that everything—myself, others, the entire universe—would be obliterated by white nets of nothingness connecting astronomical accumulations of dots". The dot remains a symbol for her powerful stance against the art world; empowering the artist throughout her career as she strived for her place amongst the greatest stars in art history. She said: "I was under the spell of the polka dot nets. Bring on Picasso, bring on Matisse, bring on anybody! I would stand up to them all with a single polka dot. That was the way I saw it, and I had no ears to listen. I was betting everything on this and raising my revolutionary banner against all of history" (Ibid., p. 24).