YOU, ME AND THE BALLOONS, a major new installation by the celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and the first work to be presented inside Aviva Studios, Factory International’s flagship new venue, has opened today as part of Manchester International Festival 2023.
The exhibition, which is Kusama’s largest and most ambitious immersive environment to date, is on view from 30 June to 28 August 2023.
Factory International will officially open its doors in October 2023.
Designed especially for Aviva Studio’s vast new Warehouse space, the installation brings together for the first time a collection of Kusama’s most significant inflatable artworks from the past 30 years, most of which have not been seen before in the UK. The exhibition is the first large-scale UK presentation of Kusama’s work since her acclaimed retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012.
YOU, ME AND THE BALLOONS invites visitors to immerse themselves in Kusama’s psychedelic universe as they journey through a colourful landscape of large-scale inflatable sculptures, many standing over 10-meters-tall or suspended from the 21-metre-high ceiling.
A giant pumpkin, inflatable dolls, mirrored spaces and polka-dot spheres are among the well-known motifs featured in the show.
Entering the exhibition, a tunnel leads visitors into a new iteration of The Hope of the Polka Dots Buried in Infinity will Eternally Cover the Universe (2019), a maze of large-scale biomorphic balloons rising floor to ceiling. Stairs within the installation lead up to a roof platform offering panoramic views of the exhibition before descending into the main Warehouse space.
Included is Kusama’s first balloon series Dots Obsession (1996/2023), reimagined for the 65-metre-long Warehouse as a constellation of large inflatable polka-dot shapes suspended in mid-air. In Dots Obsession (2013), visitors can enter one of Kusama’s renowned infinity mirror rooms located inside a large red inflatable dome.
The exhibition features Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict (2007), a video projection showing Kusama singing about her experience of depression, and a new presentation of the artist’s inflatable Clouds (2023), which has been created especially for the installation. Positioned on the floor, these soft sculptures invite visitors, for the first time, to sit or lie on the works. In the colossal work A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe (2021), which spans over 11 metres in length, visitors can immerse themselves in an inflatable forest of giant glowing pink tentacles.
Kusama’s career spans eight decades and she is widely recognised as one of today’s most important living artists. Her signature motifs and materials, such as repeated polka dots, brightly coloured pumpkins and kaleidoscopic Infinity Mirror Rooms have transcended the traditional art establishment to become part of global popular culture.
This exhibition is accompanied by a new catalogue from Factory International Publishing, edited by Phoebe Greenwood, Factory International Curatorial Associate, with new contributions from Yayoi Kusama, Philippa Perry, Professor Anil Seth, Akira Tatehata, Franck Gautherot and Seungduk Kim.