Gleaming Lights of the Souls

Know thyself

Do you know of any journeys that are not internal ones? Your plane may take off, your ship sail or your train whistle its departure but sooner or later the same questions come up: Who am I? Who are you? Or one and the same: Who are we?

In Copenhagen the trains travel on time, and the train taking us to the Louisiana Museum, one of the most beautiful there is, arrived exactly on schedule. Lapped by the waters of the Oresund strait, its large windows serve as frames for that other art that nature sometimes offers us.

On its walls was an exhibition of self-portraits that is no longer there or maybe never was. Because it is in those works of art that do not form part of the specific route of the exhibition that we can discover the most deeply felt self-portraits in this museum. They are none other than the walking man and the spinning spider found in different wings of the museum. They are Alberto Giacometti and Louise Bourgeois in their purest form.

“Who am I? Who are you?” this exhibition of one hundred and fifty works by almost sixty artists asks us. It also reminds us of two key events in the history of the self-portrait: the invention of the glass mirror and the development of psychoanalysis.

A mirror held up to the mind. This makes “Gleaming Lights of the Souls” the most surprising self-portrait of this exhibition. It is actually a camera obscura lined with glass mirrors and water, on the surfaces of which dozens of blinking coloured lights are multiplied on into infinity, and it may be entered by up to two people at a time. It was conceived in 2008 by Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist who has chosen to shut himself away in a psychiatric hospital.

The work forms part of the exhibition but is also one of the museum’s permanent installations. It is like a timeless time capsule. A journey: the journey.

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