小野 洋子 デンマーク


Yoko Ono, Voice Piece for a Soprano (1961)

A round of applause for the quite superb retrospective of Yoko Ono currently gracing Louisiana near Copenhagen, Denmark. The show, of course, is hardly needed as further proof of her power and importance, but nevertheless it adds new weight to her name, especially the excellent catalogue. The exhibition, curated by Ingrid Pfeiffer, originated in Frankfurt, and will head next year to Krems and Bilbao.

I was happy as I've not had the chance to see a big show like this before. All the classics were there, breathtaking in their purity and simplicity, certainly some of the greatest conceptual art ever made: Instruction Paintings (1961-2), Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961), Vocal Piece for a Soprano (1961, "Scream... against the Sky", etc), Cut Piece (1964), Grapefruit (1964), Mend Piece (1966), Sky TV (1966), Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting (1966 -- the one where John Lennon met her), Air Dispensers (1971). Classics all. Air Dispensers were recreated, and it was amusing how nobody apart from me seemed to take the instruction to "get involved" seriously. I was delighted to leave with my two kroner plastic "air capsule by Yoko Ono" as a souvenir and piece to own.

The emphasis was on older works. There was a sense of stasis after the incredible dynamism of the 1960s. Her work was always much better when she avoided objects entirely. Still, Vertical Memory (1997) impresses, as an atypical piece of confession about distant, imperious or abusive men in her life (mostly doctors). It is rather like a work by Sophie Calle. Also powerful is We Are All Water (2006): 100 bottles of water of famous people on a shelf, which is a curiously ethno-centric sampling of names -- very Western, very white, and very New York-centric, a quite basic choice mostly of famous artists and cultural icons, like an undergrad liberal arts college course about civilisation or culture. I could only find two Japanese names in the list: Hideki Tojo (Japanese prime minister during World War Two) and Tatsumi Hijikata (avant garde founder of Butoh).

Outside in Louisiana's lovely gardens, a Peace Tree (1996) received all our dearest wishes (my message: いっしよに).

The show also offered a generous sampling of Ono's artistic collaborations with John Lennon, particularly video works. It is clear that she was the teacher and he was the pupil.

Yet the big auditorium room full of Ono's rock music records and videos only really underlined how absolutely lousy she was as a pop musician. Recruiting their son, Sean, for recent tours hasn't seemed to help much either. At the same time, her influence certainly inspired some of Lennon's greatest moments.

Not, admittedly, Unfinished Music No. 1 -- Two Virgins (1968), which I listened to for the first and probably last time at this exhibition. I guess you had to be there. But a year later they were making the transcendental John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band LP, a truly mindblowing recording that contains music more raw and honest than almost anything ever made before or since. My favourite here was a clip off Top of the Pops, about 1970, with Lennon and Ono in freshly cropped radical chic haircuts and fatigued denim, John pounding out an incredibly funky and visceral "Instant Karma", and a blindfolded Yoko holding up cardboard signs for "smile", "peace", "hope", "breathe" etc -- with her microphone apparently turned off.

Anyway, hats off for Yoko Ono -- and after so many years of struggle and pain, all smiles now as the crowds and the adulation simply roll in.

Yoko Ono, "Half-a-Wind Show: A Retrospective", Louisiana, Copenhagen, 1 June - 15 September 2013.







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