Audio guide stop for Yayoi Kusama, Accumulation, c. 1963
NARRATOR: Kusama called this sculpture Accumulation—referring to the proliferation of soft, pillowy phallic forms that cover the underlying chair. There’s something surreal about seeing an ordinary piece of furniture treated in this way. And of course the whole psychic resonance of the phallus changes when there are hundreds upon hundreds of them: the form becomes absurd.
In her autobiography—which was first published in Japan in 2002—Kusama wrote that the sculptures helped her work through her feelings of trauma.
“People often assume that I must be mad about sex, because I make so many such objects, but that’s a complete misunderstanding. It’s quite the opposite–I make the objects because they horrify me. I began making penises in order to heal my feelings of disgust towards sex. Reproducing the objects, again and again, was my way of conquering the fear. It was a kind of self-therapy, to which I gave the name ‘Psychosomatic art." . . . I make a pile of soft sculpture penises and lie down among them. That turns the frightening thing into something funny, something amusing. I’m able to revel in my illness in the dazzling light of day. By now, the number of penises I have made easily reaches into the hundreds of thousands.”