Home' Scoop Homes and Art : SHAA039 Summer Edition Contents 228 HOMES & ART SUMMER 2013/14
York, creating works – often in the form
of ‘instructions’ – which were early
examples of ‘idea art’.
“Some are proposals for an activity, or
to think a particular thing,” says Rachel,
pointing to those in the artist’s self-
published book Grapefruit (1964). “Many are
ideas one could only realise in one’s mind.”
That includes Cloud Piece: “Imagine
the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your
garden to put them in.” John Lennon
would later credit this as the inspiration
behind his song Imagine, on which Yoko
was a co-producer.
Yoko received little recognition from
public museums before the 90s, however.
Rachel attributes this to several factors.
“When she relocated from Japan to the US
in the 50s, there wasn’t really a precedent
for her,” she says. “Here was this Asian
woman working within a largely white,
male artistic context... Her works were
cerebral rather than brutal, they carried
a strong message of peace, and they were
also very conceptual. She was ahead of her
time in that regard.”
Even her physical works – many of
which are based on text pieces – are
fundamentally vessels for ideas. “Their
material presence or representation as
objects – while absolutely important – is
also secondary, serving as a conduit for
meaning or audience completion,” Rachel
wrote in an essay ahead of the MCA show.
Key works on display are Wish Tree
for Sydney, where visitors are invited
to write down private wishes and tie
them to six native Australian trees; and
Helmets/Pieces of Sky, an installation of
salvaged military helmets from World
War II which are suspended upside-down
and filled with jigsaw pieces covered in
a blue-sky-and-clouds pattern. “The idea
is that people can take a piece of the jigsaw
away, and maybe one day everyone will
come back together to build a better, safer
sky for the future,” says Rachel.
If it seems far-fetched, that’s arguably
the point. “It’s very utopian,” says Rachel.
“But I think that’s what the world needs
at the moment when you consider the
conflict going on. To have something that
is positive and future-oriented – which
is about getting people to wish and work
together for peace – is important.”
The artist says optimism has always
underpinned her outlook. “ When [John
and I] were trying to achieve peace, some
people said, ‘You may have been trying but
nothing happened.’ Well that’s one way of
looking at it... you know, the half-filled,
half-empty glass.” How did she cope
with the criticism? “The world that didn’t
understand us,” she says, “I just dispensed
with it – in my mind.”
War is Over! (If you wa nt it): Yoko Ono,
Museum of Contemp ora ry Art Australia , Sydney,
until Februa ry 23.
ONE MILLION WISHES
Visitors who co ntribute to Yoko’s Wish Tree
for Sydney can be assu red thei r co ntribution s
will be well looked after. “ She keeps every
single wish, and now has a collection of more
than one million from around the world,” says
MCA chief curator Rachel Kent. What does
she do with them? “She n eve r reads them,
because she believes they’re perso nal,” says
Rachel. The wishes are kept at the Imagin e
Peace Towe r, a memo rial to John Len n on
set up by Yoko in Iceland.
Helmets/Pieces ofSkyby Yoko Ono .
Installation view, “Between the sky
and my head”, BALTIC Centre for
Contemporary Art, Gateshead,
England 2008-2009. Photo Colin
Davison. © Yoko Ono.
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