Oh yes, Ono
A world-famous widow maybe, but YOKO ONO is also artist with a very definite attitude. Words: Susanna Beaumont
Imagine the scene. It's I966 and. sitting on a white plinth in London’s Indica Gallery. is a lone Granny Smith apple. In walks John Lennon dressed in his ﬂower-power gear. He asks. ‘Is that an apple?‘ ‘Yes.’ comes the answer from a soberly-dressed Yoko Ono. The world-famous Beatles star had met the less-famous artist who was nonetheless a big-time player on the art world’s avant-garde stage. As a witness to their first meeting, artist Genevieve Morgan. recently put it: ‘If the gallery was Eden. then Yoko was Eve — pure temptation.‘
Over the years. Yoko Ono has had a rough time with the British press. Cast as a shadowy temptrcss or an out-and-out eccentric. she has been bad-mouthed for causing the break-up of the Beatles. Later. alter the murder of Lennon in 1980, her career was eclipsed by the status of becoming a world-famous widow. Bed-ins with Lennon aside. Ono perhaps has
cars.’ Yoko Ono
Film Still From Fly, 1970 (O Yoko Ono
‘My work was conceptual. It was certainly not about destroying pianos and smashing
Half A Wind. 1967 © Yoko Ono
not had the sort of attention she wanted.
At the Fruittnarket's Have You Seen The Horizon Lately (a very Ono title). she gets the chance to answer back. A retrospective show of work dating from the 60s to the present day. it places Ono the artist centre stage. Ono the wife is just a signiﬁcant side-line. yet the Lennon myth clings on. In the show is Ceiling Painting. Back in I966. Lennon apparently climbed the viewing ladder and. with the help of a magnifying glass. spotted the word ‘yes‘ written on a piece of paper. Ono had given the affirmative. and Lennon and Ono soon became an item.
Ono was born in Tokyo in 1933. trained in classical tnusie and later moved to New York. In the early 60s she became involved with Fluxus. A loose grouping of artists and performers inspired by their anti-convention hero, the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. In I966 Ono visited London to take part in the Destruction In Art Symposium (DIAS). ‘My work was conceptual.’ Ono has since said. ‘It was certainly not about destroying pianos and smashing cars.‘
Ono was big on letting her audience interact with her work. A I965 work Cut Piece involved people coming forward and cutting at her clothing. Another. Painting To Hammer A Nail In saw gallery-goers picking up a hammer and knocking in a nail. Pressures of conservation now ironically prevent any hammering. The piece is on show at the Fruitmarket. but firmly positioned behind glass.
Interaction is. however. still a possibility. A tree will stand in the Fruitmarket and visitors will be able to pin their hand—written wishes to its branches. and perhaps have a chat with Ono herself. A telephone has been installed and from time to time Ono will ring from the other side of the Atlantic and talk to whoever picks up the phone. It’s good to talk. but perhaps particularly so to Ono.
Have You Seen The Horizon Lately is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Sat 4 Apr-Sat 30 May.
Art talk overheard from behind the installation
COUNCILLORS CAN MOVE in mysterious ways. The City of Edinburgh’s planning committee have objected to the construction of a 10m-high light sculpture for the roof of Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery. A Lottery award of over £162,000 secured, the sculpture by Czech-born artist Peter Fink is now on hold while the Fruitmarket makes an appeal against the decision. As a spokesperson for the Fruitmarket put it, ’This is a typical Edinburgh attitude - focusing on history and not on the present when the two should work together.’ Is this another example of Edinburgh's deep-frozen approach to preserving the past?
CLEVER-CLOGS POLYMATH Dr Jonathan Miller is to kick off the Edinburgh International Science Festival. In a lecture entitled From The Look Of It, Miller will discuss representations of the 'look‘ in art. Sounds intriguing. The lecture is at 7pm on Friday 3 April at the Royal Museum of Scotland.
ADRIAN SEARLE, the Guardian's art critic is not one for beating around the critical bush. His latest outpouring , however is not directed art but the '. . . menagerie of garisth garbed underaged gawpers . . . sporting gallery quiz sheets and those ridiculous novelty rucksacks in the shape of gutted animals. The horror, the horrorl’ After years of enticing young whipper snappers in to the gallery, is Searle suggesting a kid no-go area? Watch out next time you are in the gallery with a child, the Searle brigade could be tutting their disapproval.
FILTHY SWAN, the boys-own Glasgow collective who took their name from a grubby box of Swan Vesta matches, are set to show their laddish artworks in Host. Billed as Tramway’s largest ever group show, Host (9 April-23 May) is a veritable pick 'n' mix of artists from London and Scotland. As curator Peter Lewis puts it: ‘ Host, being materially many, is an inclusive rather than an exclusive body, embracing flux rather than finitude.’ On a more prosaic note, food is on hand at the show. Restaurant Pruskin will serve salt beef from a crofter's cottage/ Jewish deli.
Boys own: artist collective Filthy Swan hanging out a baggage reclaim
M-u.‘ van—- q. I
2—16 Apr 1998 TllELlSTTS