Narrator: The artist Yayoi Kusama made Accumulation No. 1. in 1962 using a chair, sewn stuffed fabric, enamel paint, and fringe.The work is 3 feet, 1 inch high, 3 feet, 3 inches wide, and 3 feet, 7 inches deep. In metric units, it is about 94 centimeters high, 99 centimeters wide, and 109 centimeters deep.
At the core of this sculpture is an ordinary armchair. But it’s covered with hundreds of hand-sewn and stuffed fabric protrusions that appear to grow out of the chair. They are lumpy and uneven, and no two are alike. They vary in length from a few inches to a foot.
The protrusions resemble sweet potatoes or stuffed socks. They are all painted white, and some of this paint has visibly crackled or peeled off. They are about an inch and a half in diameter. Yayoi Kusama referred to them as phalluses. She said, “I make them and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process.”
Their different sizes and lengths create a rippling texture. Low along the front, sides, and back of the chair, they are packed tightly together to form a squirming surface—like a shag carpet brought to life. Higher up, the protrusions grow unruly. On the chair’s arms and back they are splayed apart, and flop awkwardly onto each other. They extend outwards, as if vying for attention.
At the bottom, white fringe conceals the chair’s feet, but hovers slightly off the floor.
Now let's hear from a scholar about this work.
Scholar, Midori Yamamura: My name is Midori Yamamura. And we are right now looking at Yayoi Kusama's Accumulation No. 1.
It is made out of a scavenged armchair covered with sewn, stuffed protrusions. She created this work not by herself alone, and the evidences are in her diary. February 20th, she said “sewing machine came.” And on March 1st, she called up the fabric shop and got some fabric. And then on the 9th, she borrowed the second sewing machine. And every day there were about five people in her studio. It was an entire day of stuffing cottons.
The sculpture was called Accumulation because she has this condition, an obsessive compulsive neurosis. She tends to repeat things over and over in order to calm herself down. The repetition is also a metaphor of contemporary society. She said that life is like being on the conveyor belt. It's almost like drinking so many cups of coffee over and over.
Kusama sat on these chairs making phone calls and so on. And in that way, she's really putting herself above male symbols. And I love this chair because it's humorous, at the same time, it's a little bit creepy and scary.