Walking Piece (1966) by Yayoi Kusama

Recently read more stuff on her. Always thought the work was a bit kitschy, but it’s had undeniable influence and name-recognition for quite a while, so she must be onto something, right? I guess it was novel for its time – the bright colours and intense repetition on the single polka dot motif don’t seem shocking to us today, but likely were a bold move then.

In any case, the piece I’d like to share is her documentation of Walking Piece, a performance piece she undertook by walking the streets of New York in traditional Japanese attire. We have the privilege of HD video and editing software today, while they had a handful of colour stills.

The choice of Yayoi Kusama in the foreground, with few people (and blurred in motion when they do appear) is interesting to me. The piece is claimed to reflect on the discrimination against Japanese in the world’s self-proclaimed biggest melting pot, but the documentation captures none of these reactions to her eye-catching attire. One photo does show the face of a man staring at a distance, but again, Kusama features in the foreground and we struggle to discern his reaction.

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