It was my senior year of college and we were on a class art trip to New York City. The trip was to mainly consist of visiting art museums and galleries. My friend and classmate, Jessica, and I opted to stay with her cousin instead of a hotel with the class to fully immerse ourselves in the New Yorker lifestyle. As the saying goes “it’s the city that never sleeps”- and we got a taste of that our first night through our last night!
During the trip one day (after a long night of dancing and drinking) we made our way to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Jessica and I tried to keep our composure as the art in the museum seemed to spin. I started seeing spots not only from my hangover, but on giant red balloons with white polka-dots on them. It was then I tuned into the Yayoi Kusama exhibition that was underway at the museum.
After buying our tickets to enter the facility, Jessica and I stumbled our way over to the ticket porter. I stuck my ticket out and managed to blurt out, “Here ya go, we’re trying to get into the museum”. The porter looked at us bewildered and politely told us that this was the line for Yayoi Kusama’s installation “Fireflies on Water”. She began to explain to us that the tickets had long since been sold out until she remembered, “...actually, I have two extra spots for this showing! Would you and your friend like to take them”?
We both nodded excitedly and took our seats on the bench lining the small white room. One by one, we scooted around the bench towards a door where each art spectator entered and stayed for precisely 3 minutes. I wasn’t familiar with Kusama’s work at the time and hadn’t done previous research on the exhibit-I didn’t know what to expect when it would be my turn to enter through the mysterious door. The proctor reminded us that our personal viewing would be timed and to not take any photos once the door shuts. I had scooted around the whole room and finally it was my turn. The proctor opened the door for me. At first I was a bit confused thinking, “What’s the big deal? It looks like a closet...”. Then the door shuts behind me and am transcended into another world.
The small closet type space seemed to stretch into infinity with mirrors lining the walls and ceiling. I looked down to find I was on a narrow platform surrounded by water. Tiny colorful lights hung around me and danced in their endless reflections. Impulse took over, and I snapped a photo (ah! I know, quite naughty of me, and pre the Instagram way of life) in hopes to never forget this Narnia-esque installation. I spent the rest of my 2 minutes and 40 seconds reflecting (no pun intended) and gazing at the twinkling lights that really did seem like thousands of beautiful fireflies on water. It almost seemed, even though I was in a small enclosed room, that the feeling I experienced would be the closest thing to drifting in space amongst the stars.
The door cracked open, bleeding fluorescent light into my other world, and the illusion was lost just as fast as it came. I exited the space feeling... different. I was excited, feeling I just had a secret experience and obtained a forbidden photo. I also felt a bit sad. Sad that my firefly journey was over and that I was back in ‘the real world’. True enough, my time in the small yet endless space was sobering.
I think back to that time often. Wondering if transforming one of my closets into another world would be a great alternative to a she shed or man cave ;) Some place to leave all of the day’s woes & stresses behind, and step into a rejuvenating world where fireflies dance on water.
Until next time.
xo- Natalie Taylor