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Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors DC with Kids: Part 2 – Enjoying The Exhibit

Kusama Infinity Mirrors 2 If you have tickets to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, congratulations! You made it through the crazy-long walk-up line or the Monday noon online click-off. If you don’t have tickets (or if you don’t even know what I am talking about), check out Part 1: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors DC with Kids: Part 1 – Getting Tickets. Here I am with our tickets for two adults and eight kids ranging from 1.5 to 9, the product of waiting in line for nearly two hours.

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Before I go any further, let me remind you of my top two pieces of advice:

  1. Come with boundless patience. If you don’t like lines or if you have a specific schedule, this is not the exhibit for you. One friend referred to the exhibit as Infinity Lines. You have to know that before anything else. You will be waiting in a lot of lines for a mere 20-30 seconds in the various Infinity Rooms. Out of my roughly 1.5 hours in the exhibit, I spent 30 minutes looking at the artwork and an hour waiting in lines.
  2. Go with a buddy. I went with another mom and her kids. This allowed us to tag-team waiting in line and keeping kids entertained.

Are you still in? Great!

Building Entry
To get into the Hirshhorn with your Kusama tickets, use the special entrance near the giant pumpkin which is on the side of museum facing the Capitol.
Before you go in, consider using the outdoor bathrooms. There are bathrooms inside, but they are downstairs in the museum. Either way, stop and use the restroom before you enter the exhibit which does not allow reentry. (Note: the outdoor bathrooms are only open in the morning. When all tickets for the day are given out and the line disperses, these bathrooms close.)

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When you get to the outdoor entrance, you will see several signs listing times. If your ticket time is not at-hand, get in the correct mini-line for that time slot. Since our time slot was right then, we entered the main line at the door. This line was very short and was for the purpose of giving us some basic rules: go through bag check, stroller parking is straight ahead, free lockers for large bags are in the basement, expect more lines in the exhibit. Food and drinks are not allowed to be consumed in the museum, but our lunches and snacks closed up and left with the strollers (or in a locker) are fine.
Near the stroller parking is a small desk where you can rent a handheld device that gives many details about the exhibit. I believe April 4 was the first day they had these. If I went again (not in a group where socializing was key) I would consider getting this. The art is so unique that knowing the stories behind it is enriching.
We parked our strollers and left our bags with in them. (I use a utility waist belt for my money and identification, so I didn’t have a purse to bring with me.) This is where I messed up a little. I left everything for the kids behind, save for our copy of The Dawn Treader. I really should have grabbed a matchbox car or magnetic doodler for the toddler. I’ve made this mistake multiple times before during the older boys’ homeschool museum field trips and always regret it. At least I did grab a baby carrier!
Reality check: This is a point of no return. There is about to be more lines, but there is no food or running around to entertain the kids. My crew spent about 1.5 hours in the exhibit. I estimate that 30 minutes of that was looking at art. The other hour was waiting in lines. Make sure everyone is fed and bathroomed. Have a baby carrier for little ones. Plan calm entertainment for older ones such as simple hand games like Rock, Paper, Scissors or One Potato, Two Potato or a good book. Pencil and paper is allowed, but no other art supplies.

Here are the types of things we like for waiting in line (affiliate link).

The Exhibit
Once you go up the escalator, staff will be there to verify tickets a couple of times so keep them handy. Once you get in, people naturally form a line to see everything in order. You do not have to wait in this bottleneck! You are allowed to go back and forth throughout the rooms as much as you would like until you get to the colored dot room. (Once you are in that one, you cannot go back.) When I was there, the end of the exhibit was much less crowded than the head of it.
What all is there to see? Five mirrored infinity rooms to enter, two infinity room peepholes, two videos, and various sculptures and paintings. It’s easy to blow past the sculptures and paintings in an effort to get into the next line to see the infinity rooms, but I encourage you to enjoy all of Kusama’s work. It builds on each other, moving from the fabric-tuber covered rowboat at the beginning culminating in the field of pumpkins at the end. You can see her fascination with tubers and dots grow. You see how her curiosity about micro versus macro plays out in different ways.

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The peepholes have casual lines around them and no limit to how long you can look. For the infinity rooms, there are winding lines marked with ropes. These do move quickly, because each group of 2-3 people is allowed a mere 20-30 second in the room. That’s right friends, all of this waiting is for 20-30 second bursts of experience at a time.

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Since our group had six kids, two toddlers, and two adults, we had to do some shuffling with who would go in with who to form groups of 2-3. A child in-arms or in a carrier does not apply toward the count, but kids must have an adult in the room with them. This dynamic is another reason why it would be hard for a lone adult to bring multiple young kids to the exhibit. Additional kids would have to be comfortable being alone outside of the room while you are inside with others.

When you get to the head of the line, you will place personal items outside the door, so don’t worry about those showing up in your pictures. A staffer will let you in, close the door, and then reopen the door when their stopwatch tells them the time is up.

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Non-flash photography is allowed. There is a strict no-touching rule, so make sure little hands are in-line. These displays absolutely can get damaged! A selfie-focused adult broke a pumpkin in February. A staff person stays with visitors in the pumpkin room because of that. The staffer counts toward the 3-person limit, but older kids can go in without a parent because the staffer counts as an adult. 

When we finally (FINALLY!!!) got in an infinity room, I took two seconds to take it in and then started snapping pictures. The kids instantly started sticking out their tongues and dancing as they watched a thousand of themselves do the same. My advice is to take a shot or two but then just look at the room with your own eyes, not through a screen. Take a step in further, or to the side. Look up, down, and all around. While I could appreciate the room as soon as I walked in, I couldn’t feel it until I put the camera down and interacted with the space.

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Selfies are so, so gorgeous in these spaces. But, don’t shortchange yourself the feeling in the name of the perfect picture. Settle for “good enough” when you have low-light and only 30 seconds. If I didn’t have kids with me, I would probably do one round for pictures and another round with no camera to just feel the room the whole (brief) time.

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As you walk around the exhibit or stand in line, try to read some of the signs. The stories they tell about Kusama’s journey is fascinating. In the Dots Obsession room, one sign talks about micro versus macro—big versus small. This concept is a great conversation-starter for kids. The room contains huge balloons, one you can go into. But, it also contains a tiny version within the easy-to-miss peephole. (Look for the balloon on the ground with an electrical cable trailing out the back.)

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Infinity Mirrors Kusama-31Mastering Lines

As I mentioned, you do not have to go in order through the rooms. The ones in the back had short lines when I was there. What I suggest is to divide-and-conquer with your buddy. Have one person stand in a long-lined exhibit while the other adult takes the kids to look at the sculptures, peep holes, or to get though a short-lined room. (Albeit if you do this, consider if you will need to leave any kids outside of the room while you maintain the 2-3 person rule and if they can handle that.) Swing back and rejoin the line when your buddy is near the head of the line. (This method did not seem to break any etiquette rules with patrons or staff.)

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Once you have looped through to see all you want to see, it is time to head to the dot room. This room has no time limit, so I encourage you to head into it before anyone starts to melt down. However, it is the point of no return. You will trade the purple sticker given to you at the exhibit entrance for a sheet of polka-dot stickers. You—and the kids—can then stick your stickers anywhere in the room you’d like. This room was great fun for the kids. The more you look, the more details you see—from the working piano to trophies on a bookshelf. My toddler especially loved this room and screamed and cried when we left. Staffers told me this reaction was not uncommon. It is just that cool!

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This final room is a great place for another conversation on micro and macro. My friend pointed out to the kids that each dot is like one person. For as big as I felt in some of the infinity mirror rooms, with myself and my kids echoed all around me, in this room—with dots stacked upon dots—it is easy to feel tiny. Kusama has nailed human nature in this. We are, at once, both macro in our own lives and relationships as well as micro in the cosmos.
Another topic of conversation, depending on the age and nature of your child, is to talk about mental illness. Kusama has experienced hallucinations since childhood. In 1977 she checked herself into a mental hospital where she has lived ever since. Her art reflects both her illness and her coping. The beautiful product we see is the result of intense struggle. She has taken something that could be a paralyzing disability and has given the world gifts. Every person has value—even those whose minds do not think the same way that way do. Once again, the macro/micro theme comes to mind. Our own ways and views are huge in our own lives, yet we are but one of billions. Life must be a dance between self and others.

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Is it worth it? Should I bring my kids? These are the questions people ask me. They are hard to answer. I don’t think it is an exhibit for all kids because there is so much waiting for so little time in the rooms. I don’t think it is worth it just for pictures since there isn’t enough time to nail it and enjoy. But, if you have a day to spare, loads of patience, a buddy, and a flexible approach, it might be worth it.

Then again, DC has so many wonderful sites to see and exhibits across the many museums. Unless you have a strong, driving reason to see Infinity Mirrors, a day in DC with kids can be spent in many other enjoyable ways that will let you see and experience more than “Infinity Lines”.

My kids haven’t talked about the exhibit once today. But, my own brain keeps thinking of it again and again. I wouldn’t mind going again sans kids to loop through a couple of times and actually feel what each space provokes. Then again, if I had a babysitter and a day to spare, is that really what I would pick to do? And, even without kids and camera, is 30 seconds enough to be satisfying?

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About More Green for Less Green

Hi, I’m Pamm. Welcome to my little slice of the web! As both a pastor and crunchy homeschooling mom, I’m never quite what anyone expects of me. But, hey, that’s what makes blogging interesting, right? Join me as I try to wholeheartedly parent my three little boys, slowly fix up the trashed foreclosure we bought in 2009, and live simply.

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