Rethinking Yayoi Kusama: Neuroaesthetics, Asobi, and the Creative Practice

By David Bell.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the prolific projects of Kusama Yayoi to re-examine the dispositions, methods and habits that have informed a remarkably sustained life of creative practice. It accepts the significance of her life experiences and self-proclaimed condition of obsessional neurosis as they inform broader auto-ethnographic frameworks for her appreciating her expressive, surreal and nonfigurative ventures. These paradigms explain both her intensive industry, and the pictorial tropes sustained in her work. Beyond these, however, it finds a deeper, culturally conditioned, phenomenon sustaining the expansive cycles of invention in her work in habits of asobi, or play. It explains how playful dispositions inform her inventive re-arrangements of Japanese conventional and sensory tropes, her easy interventions into the formal and theatrical modes of New York-style modernism, and the active engagement of interactive participation in her art. It suggests that an ethos of play can empower dispositions to empowering, and inventive, creative practice in the arts and beyond.

Keywords: Neuroaesthetics, Play, Creativity

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp.9-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 561.803KB).

Dr. David Bell

Associate Professor, College of Education, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

David Bell is the Lead Teacher in Art Education at the University of Otago College of Education. His research and teaching interests also embrace the theory and history of art in Japan. He has drawn on these complementary interests to develop a number of presentations on art learning, aesthetics and culture including the conference paper Learning and Invention in Hokusai. Recent book publications include Explaining Ukiyo-e and Hokusai’s Project, both investigations into the aesthetic phenomenon of ukiyo-e, the ‘floating world pictures’ of Japan.