Art: Yayoi Kusama, Tate Modern

Mental problems, minimalism and psychedelic drugs: Yayoi Kusama explores our obsession with the self 

-Mirka Virtanen


I really liked it. But I am easy to please, and the Tate rarely disappoints. Visually, I liked the show. And in terms of yet another lesson in history of art, I liked it. I feel like I learnt something: I thought that, as an artist, Yayoi Kusama was victimised. Victimised into being a woman and being crazy and obsessive – that is what I was taught at university – and every single review of this exhibit does use the words compulsive and obsessive either together or separately (always be cautious of those two words when used in any relation to a female or womanhood in general) – and, also, during my walk around the exhibition space, I did overhear someone saying ‘I know she has mental problems… that’s probably the biggest influence.’

But hey-ho. The lady who came up with that (and it does make it worse that it was said in a very matter-of-fact, almost indifferent, tone of voice), was clearly missing the obvious. I know not everyone in London can read but I do assume that the target audience of the show are all literate people, and thankfully, at the Tate, they are so generous with the information, it’s like wowza I need to write this down so that I remember and I can quote it to someone as I would have just thought of it myself when I went to see this exhibition, I just got it, what a great artist, I just got it by looking at her work.

Anyway, lady, you get a blurb per room. That is fourteen rooms. Fourteen chances to get it right. And then you get the artwork. The text is just there to acknowledge that no matter how upper middle class your social status is, your talent might not be abstract thinking. And that is where you missed your chance. Tate’s exhibition does not focus on Kusama as a bunny boiler crazy woman. It is a retrospective of the work of an artist, who constantly and continuously stages herself as a character in a fucked-up society that is also beautiful, and ever-changing, and challenging to live in.

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Film: Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)

Fassbender and McQueen are reunited in this stylish and unrelenting look at the most chilling businessman since American Psycho

-Kathryn Bromwich

Everyone likes sex. Can sex addiction really be that bad? After all, the South Park episode about it was pretty funny. Steve McQueen’s Shame takes a lengthy and mature look at the topic, with considerably less jokes about Tiger Woods, but rather a lot more nudity.

Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon. A handsome, thirty-something executive in Manhattan, he seems like exactly the kind of bland, one-dimensional man Carrie Bradshaw might sleep with: playing the field, having some fun with the ladies. And, in a way, that is essentially what he is, but taken all the way out to the furthest extreme into quasi-psychopathological behaviour. He is shown in a series of seedy encounters which get progressively darker and more desperate. One day, his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) appears unannounced in his flat, and her arrival disrupts his well-entrenched routines. She likes vintage clothing, lives ‘here and there’, and has a penchant for self-harm: a troubled little-girl-lost who is trying to make it as a singer in the big city. Outwardly she is the opposite of Brandon, whose self-control appears to be complete, but as the film progresses, the similarities become more and more accentuated.

The film begins by showing off the glamorous side of Brandon’s life: he lives in an expensive flat, is undoubtedly ‘successful’, and beautiful women find him irresistible. Gradually, we come to understand that the attractive women, for him, are interchangeable with porn, masturbation, and pretty much whoever is around. Throughout, it feels as if sex is not an entirely joyful experience for him but, rather, functional. His character is reminiscent of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, unmoved by the ties of family, uninterested in relationships (“What’s the point? Especially in this day and age”). With his crisp suits, immaculately tidy flat, and not a hair out of place, he is threatening in the extreme.

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