The Modern Kusama: Kusama Yayoi and Alice in Wonderland

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 19 April, 2018
6:00pm BST

Dr Amanda Kennell (Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow)

About the Speaker

Amanda Kennell is a Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. She is currently working on a book, Alice in Evasion: Adaptation/Carroll/Japan, about Japanese adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland novels from 1899 until today. Dr. Kennell’s work has appeared in the Journal of Popular Culture, and she guest curated the Finding Alice in Japan (2015-2016) exhibit at University of Southern California Libraries. She has held fellowships from the Andrew W Mellon Digital Humanities programme, the Nippon Foundation and the Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection. She received a PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Southern California, as well as an MA in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania

About the Talk

What does it mean to go through the looking-glass? Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, wrote several novels about a young girl named Alice who enters a mirror and finds adventure. Sixty years later, an artist was born on the other side of the planet who would take Dodgson’s story to the furthest reaches of art. That woman, Japan’s Kusama Yayoi (1929- ), is one of the most elite artists alive today. Perhaps best known for her abstract polka dot artworks, Kusama has adapted Alice in Wonderland throughout her career. Over the course of her career, Kusama moved from Japan to America and back again, while somehow staying in Wonderland all the while. Along the way, she distilled the essence of Alice in Wonderland to enable consumers of her art to relive Carroll’s story through herself.

This talk examines a variety of works in Kusama’s oeuvre to show how Kusama adapted Alice, what the effects of her adaptations were, and how her extensive relationship with Carroll’s works affects our own understanding of this key contemporary artist.

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.