Yayoi Kusama and One in Hundred

My high school bestie, Suki, now a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at a medical school, told me about the mystery of schizophrenia prevalence. In any society at any time, there are certain percentage of schizophrenic people. Since onset of schizophrenia is usually in early ages, the patients have less chance of making families and leaving offsprings. So if the cause is genetic, there must be less and less population with that particular genetic traits. However, there always are certain percentage of schizophrenic people. She wonders if there could be some evolutionary reasons, or some roles for schizophrenic people to play for human societies to survive.

Some says one in three hundred, others one in hundred.

I went to see Yayoi Kusama’s outdoor exhibition with my friend. Her works were pop and super fun with colorful polka dots. We were excited and having fun taking pictures of strangely out of place objects in the New York Botanical Garden’s serene setting.

There was a small indoor exhibition of her earlier work, including sketches and drawings of the “pumpkins.” My friend was reading the description and examining the drawings with keen interest. I started to “hear” things. I couldn’t tell what the voices were talking about. It was like multiple voices talking at the same time in multiple frequencies. It’s like listening to a radio with bad reception while you are driving in a mountainous area. You think you hear a word, then you hear just noise. The voices were trying to directly permeate my brain. “I can’t stay here. I’ll wait outside,” I said to my friend and left the room.

So this could be what they are hearing. Kusama’s drawings were transmitting codes. Only those who happens to have a matched receiving device with the correct frequency setting could hear the message. I couldn’t decipher her message of polka dots, but it was surely unpleasant. Polka dots morphed into eyes and they were watching me.

That was when I knew I could have been one in hundred. My brain could receive the codes.

My friend came out of the exhibition room. He was not affected at all and didn’t understand why I needed to leave the room. His brain doesn’t receive the codes…

Since there was a stigma attached to mental illness in my old country, I didn’t know until recently that two of my cousins were schizophrenic and had been hospitalized for life. They had been hidden from my family history. I also have a sister-in-law, who is schizophrenic. That’s too many in one generation. (None of us have children.)

I am glad that I could refuse to hear the transmission and leave the room. I think I dodged the bullet of one in hundred.

(By the way, my friend’s father was bipolar and he gets deeply affected by Van Gogh’s exhibition. I don’t. I guess he can read Van Gogh’s bipolar codes and I can’t. It’s interesting.)

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