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our musings on infinity and infinity mirrors.

From Japanese kabocha squash IRL to their (insta)famous art form, courtesy of Yayoi Kasuma, we explore the inspiration behind the Infinity Mirrors and what the infinite really means.

 


Our discussion on summer gardens and planting squashes reminded us of a lesser known squash known as Kabocha or Japanese squash. Kabocha is a very interesting ingredient as, although a squash, it is one of the sweetest squashes around; almost closer to a sweet potato in taste. The kabocha resembles a watermelon with its hard green exterior but on cutting it you see a soft, fleshy orangish-yellow interior. The kabocha is technically a winter squash but it’s usually available year around and it packs a great nutritional punch. It is full of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is great for your vision (and also gives the squash its rich orange colour). Kabocha are also rich in iron, vitamin A and vitamin C and have high fibre and low calorie content, making the squash an ideal addition to a nutrient dense, low-calorie diet.

 

 Kabocha Squash  Photo: Pinterest Kabocha Squash Photo: Pinterest

 

 

The other claim to fame of the kabocha is for its role as a recurring motif in the artwork of the famous Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. Tangent: Kusama’s (Insta)famous exhibit made a stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, and we were fortunate enough to visit and get inspired.

Kusama’s family cultivated kabocha squash on their farm. During World War II, Japan’s food supply was disrupted, the Kusama family storehouse was apparently always full of produce, in particular pumpkins. It is reported that “[d]espite consuming them to the point of nausea as a child, Kusama has retained a life-long fascination with pumpkins, spending hours drawing them as a young artist. To Kusama, the pumpkin represents comfort, humility and stability, and she has described them as “such tender things to touch, so appealing in color and form.””  The inclusion of the squash by Kusama in her artwork is undoubtedly in part due to the memories the vegetable triggers: it evokes nostalgia for growing up in fields of Matsumoto, Japan.

One of her more recent installations, “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins”, features Kusama’s signature polka dots on sculptures representing large, yellow kabochas. The visitor is transported into a world of imagination and fantasy when they step inside the closed room of black mirrors and psychedelic lighting to witness an infinite world of kabochas. “Standing among them, one senses an infinite warmth, comfort and energy, enough to connect a world of souls.”

 

 All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkins - Yayoi Kasuma (2016) All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkins - Yayoi Kasuma (2016)

 

 

 All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkin Blondies -- we think Yayoi Kasuma would approve of this Infinity Mirror Room inspired treat! (Recipe below) All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkin Blondies -- we think Yayoi Kasuma would approve of this Infinity Mirror Room inspired treat! (Recipe below)

 

In her blockbuster exhibit Infinity Mirrors, which has been drawing record crowds worldwide, Yayoi Kusama invites the visitor to enter her world and explore the concept of the infinite through her mesmerizing use of mirrors, lighting and colors that creates an immersive experience for the visitor.

A common theme within Kusama’s infinity mirrors (and through her artwork, generally) is repetition. Kusama uses repetition of shapes in order to overcome fears, make sense of her hallucinations, and take control of her feelings. Her use of repetition as a tool to rediscover something that once instilled fear is perhaps best seen in her installation “Phallis Field”, where she created a seemingly endless field of phallus shapes in order to help overcome her fear of sex. “By continuously reproducing the forms of things that terrify me,” Kusama has said, “I am able to suppress the fear … and lie down among them. That turns the frightening thing into something funny, something amusing.”

 

 Phalli's Field - Yayoi Kasuma  Photo Credit: NPR Phalli's Field - Yayoi Kasuma Photo Credit: NPR

 

Walking through her exhibit “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away”, its mesmerizing to see the same flashes of lights seemingly go on for, well, infinity. But one cannot help but wonder: would exploring the infinite ultimately become…..boring? If you imagined yourself in a spaceship crossing the universe, would watching the first live supernova explosion terrify you? What about the fifth and the tenth and the hundredth supernova explosion? Would they gradually elicit no interest? Would you still be enthralled by the majestic celestial sights years into your journey? Or, over time, would you become disinterested and turn to your celestial Instafeed, much like if you were on a train ride and tired of the views?

 

 The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away - Yayoi Kasuma  Photo: Artsy The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away - Yayoi Kasuma Photo: Artsy

 

If we could see a galaxy being born in front of our eyes, would it evince more or less sense of wonder than watching a baby’s first moments? After all, since we are products of the evolution of Earth which, in turn, was spun out of the Sun, we are quite literally star-dust. Does it mean that in our supposedly mundane and trivial lives, we are actually playing out infinity over and over again? With all its repetitive pains and sadness and with all its joys and wonders that were experienced by hundreds of generations before us and will no doubt be experienced by hundreds of generations after? And finally, can we even think of exploring it?

Many say that humans cannot comprehend infinity. A good example involves mathematical infinities. Let’s say you had a list of all natural numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc.) and a list of even numbers (2, 4, 6 etc.). Now everyone knows that there are an infinite number of natural numbers and instinctively you may even think that the even numbers are about a half of the natural numbers. But in fact it is easy to show that every natural number has an even number that can be paired to it (by multiplying it with 2). So somewhat counterintuitively you have a world where the universe of even numbers is simultaneously smaller than the universe of natural numbers (because not all natural numbers are even numbers) and the same size as the universe of natural numbers (because you can pair every natural number with an even number as shown in the image below). When one thinks of how easy it is to demonstrate infinity and yet how hard it is to truly comprehend it, one wonders if we can ever get around to exploring it.

 

 Mathmatecal Infinities Mathmatecal Infinities

 

In one of the final installations in her Infinity Mirrors exhibit titled “Love Forever”, Kusama invites two visitors to peer inside a mirrored cube where you can see yourself and the other person mirrored into infinity. Witnessing your reflection onto infinity one can’t help but ask the question, how long is “forever”? In his book The Fault in Our Stars (which was made into a movie by the same name starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort), John Green writes that some infinities are bigger than others. So perhaps one answer to that question would be to say that it is for as long as one doesn’t find a world where it goes on for longer. Yayoi Kusama might even approve.

 

All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkin Blondies.

Note:  We found this recipe from Sue at The View From the Great Island - we loved it and think you will too!!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

  • 1/2 tsp allspice

  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350F

  • Line a 9X13 baking pan with parchment paper.

  • In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together (using an electric mixer if you have one). Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the pumpkin. Mix well.

  • Sift the dry ingredients together then add to the bowl of wet ingredients. Blend just until there is no dry flour visible. Fold in most of the chocolate chips, reserving some for placement on the top.

  • Pour the batter into the pan and spread out evenly.

  • Add the remaining chips (place however you would like across the surface, pressing down slightly)

  • Bake for about 30 minutes, until it is slightly puffed, and is not wet or wobbly in the center.

  • Let cool (at least 30 minutes) and then lift the parchment paper from the pan. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

  • Enjoy!


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