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BIESENBACH CHERIX

YOKO ONO ONE WOMAN SHOW 1960 1971

YOKO ONOONE WOMAN SHOW

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YOKO ONO: ONE WOMAN SHOW, 19601971

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YOKO ONO
ONE
WOMAN
SHOW
1960 1971

Klaus Biesenbach and Christophe Cherix


With contributions by
Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jon Hendricks, Yoko Ono, Clive Phillpot, David Platzker,
Francesca Wilmott, and Midori Yoshimoto

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The Museum of Modern Art, New York

FOREWORD
Glenn D. Lowry

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

11

YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS


Christophe Cherix

21

FOR POSTERITY: YOKO ONO


Julia Bryan-Wilson

31

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE


IN YOKO ONOS WORK
Klaus Biesenbach

1964 1966
126

INTRODUCTION
Jon Hendricks

132
134
136
138

SKY PIECE TO JESUS CHRIST


SKY MACHINE
DO-IT-YOURSELF DANCE FESTIVALS
THE STONE

144

YOKO'S VOICE
Yoko Ono

148

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

1966 1969
1960 1962
42

150

INTRODUCTION
Clive Phillpot

156
158
164
168
170

DESTRUCTION IN ART SYMPOSIUM


YOKO AT INDICA
FILM NO. 4
LION WRAPPING EVENT
HALF-A-ROOM

INTRODUCTION
Francesca Wilmott

48
54
58
68

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES


TOUCH POEM #5
PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO
WORKS BY YOKO ONO

70

YOKO'S VOICE
Yoko Ono

174

YOKO'S VOICE
Yoko Ono

74

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

182

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

1962 1964

1969 1971

78

INTRODUCTION
Midori Yoshimoto

188

INTRODUCTION
David Platzker

84
92
94
100
106
110

WORKS OF YOKO ONO


TOUCH PIECE
MORNING PIECE
GRAPEFRUIT
CUT PIECE
BAG PIECE

194
198
200
204
208

PLASTIC ONO BAND


BED-INS
WAR IS OVER!
FLY
MUSEUM OF MODERN (F)ART

214
114

YOKO'S VOICE
Yoko Ono

YOKO'S VOICE
Yoko Ono

224

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

118

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS


231
234
240

WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION


SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
TRUSTEES OF THE
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

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FOREWORD

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

On July 16, 2010, Yoko Ono performed her 1961 work Voice Piece for Soprano at
a microphone installed in The Museum of Modern Arts Donald B. and Catherine
C. Marron Atrium, as part of the 201011 exhibition Contemporary Art from
the Collection, organized by Kathy Halbreich and Christophe Cherix. The artists unique, moving vocalizations filled the building, reaching not only the visitors gathered around her but also those in the Museums various galleries and
other spaces. Throughout the summer and fall, visitors were invited to approach
the microphone and realize their own versions of Voice Piece. This was a fitting
return to the Museum for the artist, as it linked with a previous project that also
involved the entire buildingher 1971 One Woman Show, in which, supposedly,
flies scented with her perfume dispersed throughout the Museums galleries after
having been released in the sculpture garden.

Artist, musician, performer, poet, thinker, and activist. For over fifty years, Yoko
Ono has defied categorization. Today, Onos name is widely known, though the
remarkable depth and foresight of her early work has not previously been investigated in a focused exhibition. The Museum of Modern Arts Yoko Ono: One Woman
Show, 19601971 recognizes the profound achievements of an artist who, over
the course of an extraordinary decade, changed our vision of the world. Such an
exhibition is in no small part due to the talent and dedication of numerous people
within and beyond the Museum.

More than forty years later, we are proud to have worked closely with the artist to present Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 19601971. Focusing on the early
years of Onos forward-thinking practice, this exhibition is the latest example of
the Museums recognition of the artists pioneering achievements. Thanks to the
extraordinary generosity of Gilbert and Lila Silverman, a trove of significant works
by Ono was added to the Museums collection in 2008, allowing us to increasingly
position her art in dialogue with that of other figures working in the culturally rich
years of the 1960s.
None of the Museums efforts to engage with this original and important body of
work would be possible without the tremendous generosity of the artist herself.
Yoko Ono and her remarkable team have worked tirelessly with Klaus Biesenbach
and Christophe Cherix on the realization of this exhibition. We are most grateful to
them, as we are to the lenders to the exhibition, many of whom are longtime supporters of the artist.
On behalf of the Trustees and the staff of The Museum of Modern Art, I would
like to express my deep gratitude to the Museums Wallis Annenberg Fund for
Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation; BNP Paribas;
The Modern Womens Fund; and the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund, all of which
provided essential support.
It is our hope that Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 19601971 will add to the growing
body of exhibitions and critical literature on Onos early work, and will help illuminate her lasting contribution to the art of our time.

Glenn D. Lowry
Director, The Museum of Modern Art

This exhibition and publication are profoundly indebted to the expertise and tireless
support of Jon Hendricks, who serves as both Onos curator and the Museums
Fluxus Consulting Curator, and photo archivist Karla Merrifield. Hendricks and
Merrifield offered invaluable insight and guidance in every aspect of this project
and gave indispensable feedback regarding the exhibition catalogue, while Connor
Monahan, with his thorough knowledge of the Ono Archive, enabled us to include
materials never before made available to the public. We are tremendously grateful
to them and to their colleagues at Studio One, including Marcia Bassett, Sari Henry,
Jonas Herbsman, Simon Hilton, Susie Lim, and Michael Sirianni.
We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the public and private lenders who
provided works for the exhibition, including Jon and Joanne Hendricks; Barbara Moore,
through Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; the Kei University Art Center and Archives,
Tokyo; the museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien; Northwestern University
Library, Evanston, Ill.; and The New York Public Library. We are grateful to Tony Marx,
President and CEO of The New York Public Library, for his assistance. Gilbert and Lila
Silverman not only lent essential works to the show, but their 2008 Gilbert B. and Lila
Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift has allowed the Museum to serve as a leading center for
the presentation of Onos work. We would also like to thank lvaro Rodrguez Fominaya
and his colleagues at the Guggenheim Bilbao for sharing the technical details of their
extraordinary presentation of the retrospective Yoko Ono: Half-A-Wind Show in 2014.
The writers in this volume lent their unparalleled expertise to the project. In addition
to their essays, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jon Hendricks, Clive Phillpot, David Platzker,
and Midori Yoshimoto conducted interviews with key figures from the period, which
will appear on the exhibition Web site. We would like to express our appreciation to
the interviewees, who shared their recollections of Onos work from 1960 to 1971,
including John Dunbar, Simone Forti, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Nicholas Logsdail, Jonas
Mekas, Gustav Metzger, Jeffrey Perkins, Takahiko iimura, and Klaus Voormann. We
also thank Midori for patiently helping us with translations and liaising with contacts in Japan, including Ay-O, Minoru Hirata, and Khei Sugiura, who graciously
shared their memories of Onos time in Tokyo. This catalogue benefits from a number of photographs that have never been published before. We are especially grateful to Barbara Moorewho spent hours poring over Peter Moores files with our
exhibition teamand to Gloria McDarrah, who generously provided access to Fred
McDarrahs contact sheets. We thank photographer Kishin Shinoyama, who traveled
to New York with his assistant to capture the images on the front and back covers of
this catalogue.

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8
The publication could not have come together without the skill and rigor of the
Museums Department of Publications. We thank Christopher Hudson, Publisher;
David Frankel, Editorial Director; Chul R. Kim, Associate Publisher; Marc Sapir,
Production Director; and Hannah Kim, Production Coordinator. Editor Kyle Bentleys
meticulous handling of the texts greatly improved the publication. Designer Chad
Kloepfer readily embraced our challenge to respond to Onos 1971 Museum Of
Modern (F)art catalogue, subtly nodding to the period while always looking forward.
Our colleagues at the Museum enthusiastically supported and guided the exhibition through its many stages. Director Glenn D. Lowry and Associate Director
Kathy Halbreich were committed to the show from the very start. Glenn gave us
crucial advice throughout the project, and Kathy was always there for us, sharing
her keen understanding of the artists work every step of the way. We are grateful for the steadfast dedication of James Gara, Chief Operating Officer; Ramona
Bannayan, Senior Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Collections; Peter Reed,
Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs; and Todd Bishop, Senior Deputy
Director for External Affairs. Our sincere thanks are also due to Quentin Bajac,
The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography; Stuart Comer, Chief
Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art; Rajendra Roy, The Celeste
Bartos Chief Curator of Film; and Ann Temkin, The Marie-Jose and Henry Kravis
Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture.
The exhibition benefited from the skill of Carlos Yepes, Associate Coordinator, and
Erik Patton, Associate Director, Exhibition Planning and Administration; Sacha
Eaton, Associate Registrar; Aaron Louis, Director of Audio Visual, and his industrious team; Ingrid Chou, Associate Creative Director, and her colleagues in the
Department of Advertising and Graphic Design; Robert Kastler, Studio Production
Manager, Thomas Griesel and John Wronn, Collections Photographers, and their
associates in Imaging and Digital Resources; Peter Perez, Shop Foreman; and the
art handlers under Rob Jungs leadership. Betty Fisher, Senior Design Manager,
with the support of Lana Hum, Director, Exhibition Design and Production, traveled to Europe in order to better understand Onos favored modes of display. Patty
Lipshutz, General Counsel, and Nancy Adelson, Deputy General Counsel, gave
us much-needed support and precious time, always suggesting creative ways
to make our project possible. We also thank Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives;
Milan Hughston, Chief of Library; Jennifer Tobias, Librarian; Wendy Woon, Deputy
Director for Education; Pablo Helguera, Director, Adult and Academic Education;
Sara Bodinson, Director, Interpretation and Research; Sarah Kennedy, Associate
Educator, Lab Programs; Lizzie Gorfaine, Performance Producer; Karl Buchberg,
Senior Conservator; Erika Mosier, Conservator; Lauren Stakias, Director of
Exhibition and Program Funding; Maggie Lyko, Director, Special Events and
Affiliate Programs; Kim Mitchell, Chief Communications Officer; Margaret Doyle,
Director of Communications; and Paul Jackson, Communications Manager.
The exhibition and publication were truly a shared endeavor by the entire staff
of the Department of Drawings and Prints and the Office of the Chief Curator at
Large. Department of Drawings and Prints Manager John Prochilo provided key
organizational support. Alex Diczok, Assistant to the Chief Curator of Drawings and
Prints; Laurel Lange and Renee Jin, Directors Office, MoMA PS1; and Elizabeth
Henderson from the Office of the Chief Curator at Large masterfully handled seemingly irreconcilable schedules. The team responsible for processing the 2008 Fluxus
acquisition prepared works for the catalogue and exhibition. For this we thank David
Platzker, Curator; Kim Conaty, Assistant Curator; Katherine Alcauskas, Collection
Specialist; Emily Edison, Senior Cataloguer; Rebecca Mei, Cataloguer; Sydney
Briggs, Associate Registrar; Peter Butler, Collections Photographer; and Louise
Bourgeois 12-Month Interns Heidi Hirschl and Jennie Waldow. In addition, wed like
to extend our gratitude to preparators Jeff White and David Moreno and department
assistants L.J. McNerney and Tara Burns for their dedicated assistance.

9
We thank the Modern Womens Fund for supporting two internships for the Yoko
Ono exhibition. Cameron Foote, our first Modern Womens Fund 12-Month Intern,
helped commence the initial phase of research. He suggested catalogue writers,
wrote drafts for most of the artwork descriptions, and spent a year fully immersed
in every aspect of Onos work. He also provided indispensable assistance with
Klaus Biesenbachs essay, as did Julia Lammer in the MoMA PS1 Directors Office.
We thank them for their incredible research and collaboration. Whitney Graham,
Modern Womens Fund 12-Month Intern from 2014 to 2015, deftly helped usher
the catalogue and exhibition through to their completion, finalizing the books bibliography, writing exhibition wall labels, and assisting with performances. Esther
Adler, Assistant Curator, joined the curatorial team midway through the project and
offered tremendous insight on the various texts in the catalogue.
Neither the exhibition nor its catalogue would have been possible without the
extraordinary talent, remarkable intelligence, and tireless energy of Francesca
Wilmott, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Drawings and Prints. Francesca
lent us her joie de vivre throughout the many months of our research and enabled
us to overcome every one of the many challenges we had to face. This project is
as much hers as it is ours.
At every moment, those close to us, Amy ONeill in particular, offered essential
support that allowed the project to keep moving forward.
Finally, we express our deepest gratitude to Yoko Ono, whose singular vision and
unerring generosity has guided us throughout the project. She has been immersed
in every stage of this exhibition and catalogue, welcoming us into her home and
providing unfettered access to her collection and archive. The poetic and incisive
work that Ono created from 1960 to 1971 has remained remarkably contemporary,
both attuning us to our present moment and always encouraging us to look toward
the future.

Klaus Biesenbach
Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art
Director, MoMA PS1
Christophe Cherix
The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints,
The Museum of Modern Art

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11

YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS


Christophe Cherix

In 195556, while studying at Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester County,


New York, an institution at the time devoted solely to the education of women, Yoko
Ono published short texts and poems in the school newspaper, The Campus.
One of these contributions was a story titled Of a Grapefruit in the World of Park
(figs. 2, 3), which appeared in the October 26, 1955, issue and would be of considerable importance to the development of her work in the years to come.1
Ono left Sarah Lawrence in the spring of 1956, after meeting experimental composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, whom she married later that year. She kept working on the
text in the subsequent years and, through successive versions, developed it into a
score for a performance work titled A Grapefruit in the World of Park. The work was
first presented in a group evening of music and poetry, in April 1961, at the Village
Gate in New York. Other interpretations of the piece followed, including in the artists performance at the Semaine Internationale de Musique Actuelle, Montreal,
in August 1961, and in her first two solo concerts, held at Carnegie Recital Hall,
New York, in November 1961 (fig. 1, pp. 6869) and at the Sgetsu Art Center,
Tokyo, in May 1962 (pp. 8491). In these events, A Grapefruit in the World of
Park, whose manuscript had been written by a twenty-two-year-old student still
very much unaware of what was happening around her,2 was presented alongside
other works by Ono, in which key figures of the period, such as Yvonne Rainer
and Tatsumi Hijikata, participated. Bridging Onos early years, from 1955 to 1962,
A Grapefruit in the World of Park provides an opportunity to better understand both
the unfolding and the singularity of her practice.
The original story, which calls to mind a theater piece, features a small group of
mostly undefined characters in a park at the end of a company picnic, including
a tall girl, a beautiful boy, an old, fat man, and a little girl. The plot centers on an
unwanted grapefruit. The fruit cannot be thrown away, the reader is told, as food
should not be wasted and the wastebasket is already full. The story quickly turns
to the quandary of what can be done with the grapefruit. The beautiful boy starts
by throwing the fruit into the air, and, when the tall girl asks him what else can
be done with it, he sticks a pencil into it. Perhaps reacting against such a wasteful gesture, the girl laments about how she had only ten dollars to buy the food
for the picnic. The boy, under the girls gaze, then enacts a series of actions that
today might evoke the staging of a performance: first peeling the grapefruits skin,
then dividing it into portions, and finally squeezing its flesh. Without being explicitly ordered to, the boy is led to destroy the fruit with his own fingers after having
painstakingly prepared it, thus adding an unexpected dramatic ending to a story
that began in the most mundane way. His nostrils were slightly expanded, and his
breath was quiet but violent, according to the narrator, describing the boy after he
had completed the act.
The association between violence and the everyday, often revealed through peoples
interactions with one another, is a theme that would remain central to Onos work in
the following decade, from Voice Piece for Soprano (1961), which asked participants
to scream against the wind, the wall, and the sky, to Cut Piece (1964; pp. 1069), in
which the members of the audience are invited to cut away the performers clothing.
Onos 1955 story also includes other elements that would later play an important

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YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS

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CHRISTOPHE CHERIX

role in her work. The text starts, for instance, with people turning their bodies to the
skya sky too high, the narrator puzzlingly observesand ends with an almost
magical wind, which crossed over the table, and gradually dried up the pasted skin
and the row of the [grapefruits] seeds. These motifs of the sky and the wind reappeared with force in the 1960s in a number of Onos works, such as Painting for the
Wind (1961) and the media installation Sky TV (1966), which broadcasts in real time
an image of the sky on a television monitor. Of a Grapefruit in the World of Park, in
which nature, through the sky and the wind, bookends the story, shows that already
in the mid-1950s Ono counterbalanced images of violence and darknessthe closing, for instance, tells us that all vanished together into darknesswith moments
of pure contemplation and utter serenity.
Around the time that Ono wrote Of a Grapefruit in the World of Park, she also
started performing, privately and among friends, one of her oldest recorded works,
Lighting Piece (pl. 25). The piece, which was not publicly presented until the 1961
Carnegie Recital Hall concert,3 similarly brings together elements of plain beauty
and latent violence. The instruction simply states: Light a match and watch till it
goes out.4
One of the overarching characteristics of Onos work is that it doesnt always require
a public setting, such as a gallery, a museum, or a theater, to exist. It represents a
notable shift from a past generation of artists dealing with the readymade and the
everyday. Some of the most daring works of the twentieth century, from Marcel
Duchamps Fountain (a urinal on a pedestal) to John Cages 4' 33" (a musical score
according to which performers are required not to play their instruments), are difficult
to understand without taking into account the public nature of their presentation.5
When A Grapefruit in the World of Park was presented to the public in 1961, the
text (figs. 4 15) was significantly different, both in its syntactic structure and its
symbolic connotations, from the earlier version. Ono preserved details from the
originalsuch as the skys being too high and the need to purchase all the picnics food with ten dollarsbut edited the wording, redistributing the material and
intertwining it with new text. The piece, now divided into twelve parts, reads not
as a story but rather as a long freeform poem. The grapefruit itself takes on new
significance with the added verses. The fruit is no longer fresh and juicy, but dry
and wrinkled. The phrase baby carriage appears isolated in a strophe, devoid of
any connection to the rest of the poem, and a chorus emphasizes even further the
poems morbid tone:
lets count the hairs of the dead child
lets count the hairs of the dead child
At the Village Gate, Ono read the text onstage, while various contributorsCage,
Ichiyanagi, David Tudor, and La Monte Young, among others 6performed according to her instructions, for instance by laughing aloud or playing atonal music. The
piece fit well into the New York avant-gardist atmosphere of the moment. At times,
the work was irreverentas when a toilet was heard flushing during the action
and at others somber and dark, but as a whole it was deeply personal and experimental in its attempt to bring together poetry, music, theater, and performance.
The grapefruit, a citrus hybrid, would soon become a metaphor for hybridity in
Onos work, conveying both a personal point of viewher crossing of the Eastern
and Western worldsand a new artistic approach able to combine existing disciplines. When, in 1964, Ono self-published a collection of her instruction works
in Japan, a book of prophetic importance to the art of the 1960s, she titled it
Grapefruit, capturing in a single word a period of her life.

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1. Photograph conceived as poster for
Works by Yoko Ono at Carnegie Recital Hall,
New York. 1961. Gelatin silver print,
9 1516 x 7 1516" (25.3 x 20.2 cm). Poster: Yoko Ono.
Photograph: George Maciunas

Grapefruit (pp. 100 105) is divided into five chapters. One of them, the second,
is devoted to painting. The emphasis is surprising for an artist who had previously

YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS

14

15

CHRISTOPHE CHERIX

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2 and 3. Of a Grapefruit in the World of Park, The Campus
(Bronxville, N.Y.: Sarah Lawrence College), October 26, 1955: 9 10

YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS

shown little interest in traditional painting. Rather than images of paintings, the
publication offers instructions for paintings in which the paint and brush are often
relegated to a secondary role. A number of these instructions were realized on the
occasion of the artists first solo exhibition, at AG Gallery, New York, in July 1961
(pp. 5867). At least three of them had already been enacted a few months earlier,
during the Chambers Street Loft Series (pp. 4853), a run of performances and
concerts held in Onos loft.
At AG Gallery, in at least two instances, Ono presented a text written on a sheet of
paper next to an exhibited work. In 2008, she mentioned that she had asked Toshi
Ichiyanagi to write out cards explaining the functions to display on the side of each
painting . . . [but] he managed to write [only] two cards. 7 The text, from 1960, for
Painting to Be Stepped On (1960/1961; pl. 13) states:

16

17

CHRISTOPHE CHERIX

alterations to the space in order to turn it into a gallery environment. He removed


the plaster from some of the walls, thus exposing the original bricks, and altered
the ceiling. The Fluxus archivist Barbara Moore, who didnt see Onos installation
but came to the gallery early on, remembers that Maciunas had arch[ed] large
sheets of semi-translucent heavy paper stock between the [ceiling] beams. 12
Ono installed her works without frames or pedestals. The pieces of canvas
and sheets of paper were simply affixed to the walls or to a translucent screen
installed in front of the gallerys front windows (pl. 16). Painting to Be Stepped On,
Waterdrop Painting (Version 1), and Waterdrop Painting (Version 2) were on the
floor, in locations that vary from photograph to photograph, suggesting that some
works were moved over the course of the exhibition. A long table stood before
the window screen with additional items displayed on it, including Painting Until It
Becomes Marble.

A WORK TO BE STEPPED ON
For Painting in Three Stanzas (1961; pl. 11), a piece of canvas with a vine stuck
through it, we read:
It ends when its covered with leaves,
It ends when the leaves wither,
It ends when it turns to ashes,
And a new vine will grow, __________
The first text offers the viewer the opportunity to physically interact with the work
even at the risk of damaging itwhile the other implies that a number of upcoming
changes in the painting, not explicitly dependent on the participation of the viewers, need to happen for the work to be complete. According to Onos explanation,
these texts state the functions of the exhibited worksso, in other words, the
particular activities intended for each painting. The works on display all had some
function, Ono further explicated.8 Painting to Let the Evening Light Go Through
(1961) filtered the light at the end of day, while two pieces titled Waterdrop Painting
(1961; pl. 14) received drops of water.
The status of the texts displayed in the exhibition, or of the verbal commentaries
that replaced them when no text was given, is different from that of the instructions shown by the artist the following year, at Sgetsu Art Center in Tokyo. On this
occasion, the instructions, composed and translated by Ono and handwritten in
Japanese by Ichiyanagi, were simply hung on the walls, clearly meant to be considered works themselves (pls. 2831). In 1995, Ono explained: I did a show of
instruction paintings at AG Gallery in New York, but that was exhibiting canvases
with instructions attached to them. Displaying just the instructions as paintings
was going one step further, pushing visual art to its optimum conceptualism.9
Most of the works shown at the AG Gallery are presumed to be lost, and only
a few have been realized again by the artist since the exhibition. We know the
content of the show thanks to photographs taken by one of the gallerys founders, George Maciunas. Maciunas treated photography as a means to create an
inventory of world art, 10 photographing, for instance, building facades, details of
sculptures, and city views with a very sharp focus in the depths of the image,
devoid of human beings and traffic. 11 He shot Onos exhibition with the same eye
toward intelligibility and comprehensiveness that he demonstrated in his previous photo campaigns. The works are unexpectedly documented at close range,
with only a few overall installation shots, as if the photographer considered the
paintings to exist primarily on their own and not necessarily in their relationship
to the visitors.

Overall, the works didnt compete with the architecture but let themselves be
absorbed by it. Ono seems to have intentionally positioned her paintings, made of
unprepared canvas, against the rough brick walls and on the worn tiled floor, and
her drawings, consisting of black ink on white paper, on the plastered white walls.
The impression of the work merging with its surroundings was reinforced by the
hanging of ink drawings on both sides of the translucent screen, two on the front
side and one on the back.
At AG Gallery, the feeling of a unified display was further reinforced by the fact that
all the pieces of canvas had been cut from the same roll, which Ono had acquired
a few months earlier from an army surplus shop during the Chambers Street Loft
Series. A photograph shows that a large portion of canvas had been hung in the
loft, essentially creating a makeshift backdrop and surface for actions performed
by the artist.
Onos contributions to the Chambers Street Loft Series and the staging of her
first exhibition attest to how crucial a role the environment plays in the conception
of her work. A similar interest is seen in a body of work made a decade earlier:
Robert Rauschenbergs White Paintings, created at Black Mountain College, in
North Carolina, during the summer of 1951. Cage, who was a friend and supporter
of Ono, first captured the groundbreaking nature of Rauschenbergs achievement,
when, in 1961, he described the monochromatic panels as airports for the lights,
shadows, and particles. 13
Neither Onos early paintings nor Rauschenbergs White Paintings are to be understood solely in relation to their materiality. What gives them the status of works of
art is less the canvases that constitute them than the process of interaction and
change triggered by their display. In some ways, they exist only while they are being
experienced, very much as live performances would. As Rauschenberg explained,
My black paintings and my white paintings are either too full or too empty to be
thoughtthereby they remain visual experiences. These pictures are not Art.14
Similarly, Onos works are not intended as art in and of themselves. Painting to Be
Stepped On, for instance, does not have to be stepped on, but it must be placed
on the floor, within reach of visitors. Its materiality remains secondary to its ability
to generate potential activities in the viewers mind. Perhaps like nothing before
itRauschenbergs White Paintings includedOnos works are performative by
nature. They exist primarily by means of their being shown to the viewer.
In November 1966, five years after the AG Gallery exhibition, Ono opened a show
at Indica Gallery in London (pp. 15863), only her second solo gallery exhibition to date. The presentation featured Onos first body of sculptures. For one of
these, she placed a fresh apple on a tall transparent pedestal that had been specially designed for it (pl. 70). The work comes with no instruction: the engraved
plate affixed to the pedestal contains only a title, Apple. If Apple can be seen as

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The AG Gallery was located on the second floor of a small building on Madison
Avenue, on New Yorks Upper East Side. Maciunas made a number of significant

YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS

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CHRISTOPHE CHERIX

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415. Typescript for A Grapefruit in the World of Park. 1955/c. 1961.
Twelve typewritten pages, each 11 x 8 12" (27.9 x 21.6 cm)

YOKO ONOS LIGHTNING YEARS

sculpture, then its because of its mode of displayinviting viewers to go around


itand its three-dimensionality. The work is also, however, a readymade iteman
object chosen, rather than created, by the artist. To complicate things further, it is a
perishable item that requires replacement with every new showing. Not only does
the fruit-as-artwork thus resist fetishization and commodification, but our focus
shifts from the apple to the action of choosing it and displaying it to the public. As
a result, each presentation of Apple should be regarded as a unique and singular
performance of the work. The piece encapsulates precisely what makes Onos art
so essential to our time: its capacity to always be in the present and to never make
us look back.

20

21

FOR POSTERITY: YOKO ONO


Julia Bryan-Wilson

POSTERIORS

NOTES
1.

2.

3.

4.
5.

6.

Ono contributed to four other issues of The Campus: those


dated May 4, 1955; May 11, 1955; September 28, 1955; and
April 25, 1956.
See Edward M. Gomez, Music of the Mind from the Voice
of Raw Soul, in Alexandra Munroe and Jon Hendricks,
eds., Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society and Harry N.
Abrams, 2000), p. 237n9.
In the Carnegie Recital Hall concert, Ono performed the
piece, albeit without calling it by name, as part of AOSTo
David Tudor.
Yoko Ono, Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, 1964), n.p.
Duchamp first proposed Fountain to the American Society
of Independent Artists for inclusion in their inaugural exhibition, in 1917. The work was rejected. Cages 4' 33" debuted
at Woodstocks Maverick Concert Hall in 1952.
About the participation of Cage and Young, not listed in
the program, see the 1971 letter from Yoko Ono to George
Maciunas excerpted in the present volume, p. 70.

7.

8.
9.
10.

11.
12.
13.
14.

Yoko Ono, Summer of 1961, in Jon Hendricks, ed., with


Marianne Bech and Media Farzin, Fluxus Scores and
Instructions: The Transformative Years (Detroit: Gilbert and
Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, and Roskilde, Denmark:
Museum of Contermporary Art, 2008), p. 40. This volume,
p. 72.
Ibid.
Yoko Ono: Instruction Paintings (New York: Weatherhill,
Inc., 1995), p. 5.
Thomas Kellein, The Dream of Fluxus: George Maciunas,
An Artists Biography (London and Bangkok: Edition
Hansjrg Mayer), p. 27.
Ibid., p. 28.
Barbara Moore, e-mail to Francesca Wilmott, August 6,
2014.
John Cage, On Robert Rauschenberg, Artist, and His
Work, Metro 2 (May 1961): 43.
Robert Rauschenberg, quoted in Hubert Crehan, The See
Change: Raw Duck, Art Digest 27, no. 20 (September 15,
1953): 25.

In a sketch from 1971, part of a book of ideas for a possible one-woman intervention
at The Museum of Modern Art, Yoko Ono drew images and wrote directives for an
imagined exhibition called Posterity Show (fig. 1).1 Over the course of four frames
and in the description that accompanies the drawings, Ono lays out her vision for
a participatory work that would progress as the evening unfolded, in which the
backside of every person who attended the opening was photographed for world
peace. Illustrated by renderings of a variety of cropped cheeks hung on a wall, the
text continues, They were instantly blown up to appropriate size and exhibited in
the posterity showroom. Onos speculative piece (written in the past tense, as if
it had already happened) incorporates and annexes the presumed spectators of
the show, putting them, and their vulnerable bodies, on display. Along with providing simple renderings of their naked forms from behind, she labels some of her
potential subjects: Salvador Dal, Truman Capote, Jacqueline Onassis. One frame
shows a photographer at work with his camera and tripod, and Ono explains that
the pictures would later be aggregated into wallpaper for purchase, with proceeds
benefiting the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF, here spelled UNISEF).2
With this unrealized project, Ono crystallizes her unique brand of corporeal institutional critiqueakin to what Chrissie Iles has dubbed the erotic conceptualism
in Onos film works 3as she conjoins bared buttocks, upended museum protocol, and global politics. Playing on the close proximity of the words posterity and
posterior, Ono offers a raucous alternative vision of a future art world that is concerned with de-hierarchizing the artist, stripping down the audience, and securing
world peace. These were issues she dealt with often, as in previous works like her
instruction paintings and scores; her billboard project WAR IS OVER! (1969 ;
pp. 200203), conceived with John Lennon; and films including the two works
titled Film No. 4 (196667; pp. 16467), compilations of ambulating asses that she
considered a petition for peace. 4
In Posterity Show, Ono blurs the public/private division, honing in on, uncovering,
and celebrating a body part often associated with shame, excrement, and scatology; the divide is further complicated when, according to Onos plan, the butt pictures enter the realm of the domestic as decorative wallpaper. Art historian Mignon
Nixon astutely grasps the double nature of Onos utilization of the derrire, noting
that Film No. 4 is both hypnotic and sweetly sixties as a reminder of a decade
of love as well as a performance of a mock march. 5 Infantile but also militarized,
the trooping backsides are a fraught locus of innocence, pleasure, and sensuality,
but also disgrace, training, and parental discipline. In Freudian language, a fixation
on the anal is an indication of psychological devolution or a return from a higher
to a lower state of development. 6 Onos bodies advance as they regress, a rejection of Freuds terms and an implicit embrace of one of the least gender-specific
erogenous zones (neither breast nor genitalia). Evoking looping bodily rhythms,
oscillations between past and present, swerves away from strict linearity, fleshy
reminders of physical processes that are not predicated on a male/female binary,
Onos forward march of behinds prefigures and modulates what French theorist
Julia Kristeva would, later that decade, call womens time. 7

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JULIA BRYAN-WILSON

23

In another drawing from Onos 1971 sketchbook (fig. 2), labeled people who
attended the opening, we see a cast of celebrity characters that includes Jackie
O flanked by two bodyguards, Dal and two female friends (the three appearing to
have arrived already naked), Richard Nixon smiling from his presidential car, and
Andy Warhol surrounded by his superstars. A flag reading Museum delimits the
otherwise unelaborated setting. The notebook is brimming with musings on how
to make the Museums architecture and contents more irreverent, with a decidedly
feminist bent, including thoughts about using art as a household object (making a Henry Moore piece into a diaper hanger, for instance, a version of Marcel
Duchamps suggestion to turn a Rembrandt into an ironing board), dressing sculptures in drag, and staging a large-scale adaptation of Onos legendary performance Cut Piece (1964; pp. 1069), in which the audience would cut off each
others clothes.8 These drawings provide a glimpse into Onos own process, with
her wide-ranging ability to reimagine assumptions about how both art objects and
spectators are expected to function within institutional contexts. They also indicate
that The Museum of Modern Art, in 1971, was understood (not least at its exclusive
openings) as a gathering place for the rich, the famous, and the powerful, a destination for those renowned in culture as well as in politics, who came to be seen
as much as to see the art. Clever move, Ono notes about Nixon, whose arm is
raised in his signature gesture.
FARTS
In November 1971, Ono launched her piece Museum Of Modern (F)art (pp. 208
13), which centered on a conceptual exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art. She
advertised the show in The Village Voice and the New York Times, including a mailorder form for the catalogue, priced at one dollar.9 The ad (fig. 3), reproduced on
the cover of the catalogue, features a manipulated photo in which Ono has placed
the Museums name on an awning above the main entrance, using a structural
indentation to create a large gap between the last two words. The image appears
to catch the artist at a moment when she strolls by below the gap, which is symbolically filled by the big F on a shopping bag she carriesthe institution thus
being renamed the Museum of Modern Fart.

1. Page from an idea book by Yoko Ono. c. 1971.


Felt-tip pen on paper, 8 12 x 11 12" (21.6 x 29.2 cm)

2. Page from an idea book by Yoko Ono. c. 1971.


Felt-tip pen on paper, 8 12 x 11 12" (21.6 x 29.2 cm)

Held from December 1 to 15, 1971, without the Museums consent, the exhibition
involved a man wearing a sandwich board who walked outside the entrance on
53rd Street from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. wearing a sign that read:
flies were put in a glass container the same volume as yokos
body the same perfume as the one yoko uses was put in the glass
container the container was then placed in the exact center of the
museum the lid was opened the flies were released photographer
who has been invited over from england specially for the task is
now going around the city to see how far the flies flew the flies are
distinguishable by the odour which is equivalent to yokos join us in
the search observation & flight 12/71.10
Midway through the two-week duration of the piece, the man wrote to Ono cataloguing some of the reactions he received, noting that the majority of believers
were between ages 1725, the majority of skeptics are between 3555. 11 He
included a more detailed breakdown of age groups and their responses, mentioning, for instance, that those between twenty-five and thirty-five were the most
violent . . . indeed quite lavish with their ripe expletives as I tried to explain. Indeed,
one even tried to put me through the window before I cleverly muttered some
nonsense about karate. 12 The correspondence indicates a couple of things: one,
that this man, perhaps predictably, met with a spectrum of sympathies and hostilities toward Ono (or, more precisely, toward a nonexistent show by Ono that was
advertised as actual), and two, that he was not a passive or silent sign-carrier
but an active part of the reception of the piece as he conversed with those on the

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3. Advertisement for Museum Of Modern (F)art in
The Village Voice, November 25, 1971: 30.

FOR POSTERITY: YOKO ONO

sidewalk, eliciting their responses. A seven-minute documentary, The Museum of


Modern Art Show (1971), captures responses of pedestrians who thought they
might see Onos exhibition, and contains brief interviews with visitors amused,
angry, and perplexed to discover that no physical show existed. The content of the
exhibition was in fact the sum of these wide-ranging responsesthe audiences
comments, as much as the artists intervention, were the workwith Ono suggesting that the line between artist and audience is arbitrary, and attempting to level
the discrepant valuations it produces. Democratization was a goal as well as a
starting point for Onos art, observes Midori Yoshimoto.13
The New Yorker referred to the ad and signboard, with their mixture of cleverness,
sentimentality, coyness, sweetness, satire, and mystification, as typical of her
work. 14 But far from merely iterating her own ethos, Ono was working within arenas of Conceptualism that sought to move art beyond the walls of the institution by
turning to advertising, fake or inaccessible exhibitions, and signage worn on the
body. Such arenas included Dan Grahams and Adrian Pipers uses of the magazine page, Robert Barrys Closed Gallery Piece (1969), and Daniel Burens striped
Sandwich Men walking the streets of Paris in 1968.15 Like Ono, Piper chose The
Village Voice as her venue, placing her first ad in 1969 and in 1973 commencing
a project in which she published a series of almost-monthly ads that interrupted
the announcements of gallery exhibitions to broadcast her internal (ostensibly private) thoughts, including enigmatic disclosures of desire. Dressed in sunglasses,
a mustache, and a wig, Piper appears in the guise of her persona the Mythic
Being, with hand-drawn thought bubbles containing excerpts from her personal
journal floating up from her head.16
In addition, throughout the preceding decade, artists had taken up signs and posters outside of museums to make critical points about the role of taste-making
and exclusionary practices. In 1963, artist Henry Flynt and filmmaker Jack Smith
picketed The Museum of Modern Art (as well as The Metropolitan Museum of Art
and Lincoln Center) with demands to DEMOLISH ART MUSEUMS and DEMOLISH SERIOUS
CULTURE (fig. 4), part of Flynts campaign to recalibrate individual assessments
about art and throw off what he considered dictatorial decisions made by elite
curators. Starting in February 1968, art critic Gene Swenson marched daily in
front of MoMA, alone, holding up a blue question mark to signify his discontent
with the institutions policies and ideologies.17 In the late 1960s and early 1970s,
the museumMoMA in particularwas a charged and contentious site of political
activism, understood as one of the front lines of leftist organizing against racism,
sexism, classism, and the war in Vietnam. Critic Hilton Kramer summarized the
situation in 1974, saying: Of all the institutions that currently preside over the conduct of our cultural affairs, none confronts more vexing problems than our major
art museums. . . . The museum has more and more become one of the crucial
battlegrounds upon which the problems of democratic culture are being decided.18
At various moments during this era, the sidewalk outside MoMA seethed with
demonstrators, including women artists marching for greater gender inclusion;
members of the Black and Puerto Rican Emergency Cultural Coalition, calling
out the Museum for its racist policies and proposing that a new wing dedicated
to nonwhite artists be built; participants in the first strike of the Professional and
Administrative Staff Association (PASTA-MoMA); and members of the Art Workers
Coalition protesting against the role played by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a
Museum board member, in the brutal suppression of the Attica prison riots (fig. 5).
Some of these artists wanted representation, but they also wanted to change the
entire system of valuation upon which the Museum rested (and many went on to
form alternative art organizations).

24

25

JULIA BRYAN-WILSON

the visual rhetoric not only of advertising but also of dissent. In the 1960s and early
1970s, Ono made a number of bold feminist statements in a variety of mediums,
including her 1969 film Rape (a collaboration with Lennon); her song Sisters, O
Sisters (performed in December 1971 at a benefit concert for the Attica uprising);
and her 1972 text The Feminization of Society, published in the New York Times.19
Her defiant claim to a solo exhibition stood in stark contrast to the Museums walls,
which were, then as now, filled mostly with works by white men.20 Had she actually
had a one-woman show in 1971, it would have been one of very few solo shows
at the Museum to feature a woman, as well as the first by an Asian womanYayoi
Kusamas naked dancers infiltrating the Sculpture Garden in 1969, Grand Orgy
to Awaken the Dead at MoMA, which, akin to works by Ono, concerned stripped
bodies and antiwar proclamations, was not an officially sanctioned exhibition.
Indeed, Onos exhibition, read as a guerilla insertion by a woman of color with a
white man standing in as her paid surrogate to deflect blows and absorb compliments, was like a fart: an unwelcome emission, a vulgar, odorous eruption that
violates standard practices of museum respectability. With her Museum Of Modern
(F)art project, Ono, as matter out of place in the institution, harks back to the
asses of Posterity Show, reveling in the base, messy, embarrassing, and personal,
and demonstrating the opposite of prim art-world comportment. Onos interest in
low bodily functions has been linked to Fluxus impresario George Maciunass own
scatological inclinations, as seen in his design for her thirteen-day dance festival in
1966 (pl. 59). This grid of images includes, among other vignettes, a man either farting or shitting out the words DO IT YOURSELF FLUXFEST PRESENTS and a finger inserted
into an anus. However, Onos embrace of leaking, inappropriate bodies can also be
placed in dialogue with other explicitly feminist practices of around the same time
that were concerned with excretions, such as Judy Chicagos Red Flag of 1971, a
photolithograph of a woman pulling a red-hued tampon out of her vagina. Though
farting is gender-neutral (and prohibitions about passing gas in public apply to all),
menstruation is not, and Chicagos work startlingly exposes a ritual that is constantly performed by women but very rarely depicted. Menstruation has been so
concealed as to invite the violation of the taboo, notes feminist critic Lisa Tickner. 21
FLIES
The polluting cloud of gaseous bad air proposed by Onos fart is riffed on, and
inverted, by photographs taken by Iain Macmillan and the artist and compiled in the
accompanying catalogue, which claim to document the perfumed flies that Ono has
released in the Museums Sculpture Garden. An image constructed by photomontage depicts Ono standing in the garden beside a large glass container dense with
insects. (The portrait component of this image had been cut from the catalogue for
her 1966 exhibition at Indica Gallery, London [pp. 15863].) In the next image, she
is nowhere to be found, and the container is almost empty, with flies trickling out of
its thin neck (pl. 96). Instead of carrying associations of waste and bad smells, the
flies Ono imagines releasing are sweetly scented with Ma Griffe (the perfume bottle
is shown nearly half-full in one photograph and closer to empty in another, as if to
constitute proof that it was used to anoint the flies), as they alight within and beyond
the museum building. Flight, flying, and the wordplay possible between the noun
and verb forms of fly had long fascinated Ono, as evidenced by works including
her 1963 instruction that states, simply, fly and her 1970 film Fly (pp. 2047),
which shows flies landing on and navigating a womans body.
In the Museum Of Modern (F)art catalogue, she uses flies as a narrative device
for a series of 138 photographs that acts as a rambling travelogue through the city,
with the fly in each frame pointed out with a crisp white or black arrow (pl. 97).
(That they are in the photographs at all is as much a matter of faith as the rest of
the project; purporting to release something that is unseen in the final images,
Onos piece can be compared to Robert Barrys Inert Gas Series from 1969.) The
flies meander through the galleries, flitting near works by Picasso and Matisse, and

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To what extent Ono, an antiwar, nonwhite feminist, might have sensed affinity or
solidarity with these various causes is an open question, but it is nonetheless
notable that her sandwich-board man came on the heels of this intense period of
agitation at the foot of the Museums door, and thus the work is in dialogue with

FOR POSTERITY: YOKO ONO

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JULIA BRYAN-WILSON

eventually head out to the street, making appearances at public parks, churches,
office buildings, bridges, empty lots, artists studios, and construction sites. Some
of the images are off-kilter postcard views of New York, showing familiar sites,
such as the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, the twin towers of the World Trade Center nearing completion. Others portray less picture perfect aspects of city life, with men
sleeping on benches, graffiti, firefighters gathering at a crisis, and crowded shop
windows on Canal Street and in Chinatown. One exceptional sequence of five
photos focuses on a group of young boys posing with full awareness of the camera
as they cluster around a wooden cross and mug for the lens (arrows directing us to
the flies appear only in the last frame), but most pictures seem to have been taken
candidly, unbeknownst to the people in them.

4. Jack Smith and Henry Flynt picketing in front of


The Museum of Modern Art, 1963.
Photograph: Tony Conrad

5. Yvonne Rainer, May Stevens, and Rudolf Baranik in The


Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden during
an Art Workers Coalition protest against the police action
at Attica prison, 1971. Photograph: Jan van Raay

Each photo with an arrow is adjacent to a postcard that shows a detail of a fly (numbered), so that the viewer might send the flies even further, beyond the bounds of
the book. As Ono put it, All the pages are postcards that you could mail, so the
catalogue and Fly piece could fly all over the place. 22 Given its varied affective
tone, its persistent return to some locations, and its hybrid inclusion of everything
from considered landscapes to intimate interiors to street snapshots, the photo
book might be situated somewhat uneasily within what has been perceived to
be the central rubric of conceptual photography, such as that of Douglas Huebler
or Hans Haacke, in which the camera is used to record in as straightforward a
manner as possible.23 Yet now-dated assertions of the ostensible neutrality of the
documentary image in conceptual photography have been challenged on multiple
fronts (as if any image could be neutral), and Onos book, with its focus on mapping and spatiality, its pursuit of an arbitrary structure, and its inclusion of the
graphic elements of the arrow and the postcard format, in fact emblematizes many
of the themes and aesthetics of conceptual photography. Museum Of Modern
(F)art calls to mind 100 Boots, the mail-art project begun by Eleanor Antin in 1971,
in which a troupe of boots carried out an epic journey across the country. They
went to work, went to war, went shopping, and more, and their adventures were
documented in a series of postcards mailed to about a thousand recipients, culminating in 1973 when, en masse, the boots entered the front doors ofwhere
else?The Museum of Modern Art.
The overall tenor of Onos book is one of high and low mixing, in which the most
refined sites are juxtaposed with some of the most ordinary, all of them marked by
the presence of the common irritant, the fly. Not unlike farts, flies are often perceived
as unhygienic; they are hallmarks of unsanitary conditions, swarming around refuse
and transmitting disease. Yet Ono suggests that flies, with their compound eyes that
see many perspectives at once, might be model viewers, offering a different scopic
regime for confronting multifaceted art. In addition, the photos follow flies as they
take a welcome, unpredictable path through the Museumseeing paintings, yes,
but also wandering through corridors. As the flies easily traverse the inside and the
outside, they reveal the porousness of the Museum and the city.
The penultimate photo (taken by Ono herself) is of a sleeping John Lennon, an
arrow pointing to an invisible fly near his ear. The book concludes with a picture of
the Museums ticket counter, where the Village Voice ad has been displayed with a
handwritten addendumTHIS IS NOT HEREpresumably affixed to the glass to set
straight confused visitors coming to purchase admission for a show that was not on
view (fig. 6). As Kevin Concannon comments, the statement itself could have contributed to the confusion, as the wording of Art echoes exactly the title of her thenrecent retrospective at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse.24 Onos exhibitionas-proposition forced the Museum into the awkward position of having to clarify
what it was not doing. Her assertion that she belonged, and that her show could
and should be in the Museum, resonated beyond New York and shared affinities
with strategies pursued by other underrepresented artists, as when the Chicano
collective Asco signed their names to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

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6. Advertisement for Museum Of Modern (F)art


taped to the Museum of Modern Art ticket window, 1971.
From Museum Of Modern (F)art. 1971
(pp. 208 13 in the present volume)

7. Two performers kidnapping a Trustee at The


Museum of Modern Art as part of Marta Minujns Kidnappening,
August 1973. Photograph: unknown

FOR POSTERITY: YOKO ONO

28

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JULIA BRYAN-WILSON

effectively appropriating the entire building as their own readymade Conceptual art
piece, in Spray Paint LACMA (Project Pie in De/Face) (1972).
FEMINISMS
Ono was not alone in conceiving a feminist critique of art-world conventions and
enacting it within the museum space itself. Mierle Laderman Ukeles carried out
her Hartford Wash: Washing Tracks, Maintenance performance in 1973, laboring
publicly to clean the floors and vitrines of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford,
Connecticut, and thus drawing attention to the invisibility of womens work both
in the domestic sphere and elsewhere. That same year, Argentine artist Marta
Minujn orchestrated her Kidnappening, in which preselected visitors at a Museum
of Modern Art cocktail party were kidnapped by conspiratorswhose faces were
made-up to resemble those of Picassos Cubist figuresand taken to different
locations (fig. 7).
Ono has long been recognized as an important figure in both feminist and Conceptual
art. Her work was included in the film program and catalogue for Information, the
early survey of Conceptual art held at MoMA in 1970, and in the pioneering 1999
show Global Conceptualism, organized by the Queens Museum of Art.25 The catalogue for the latter show mentions Ono as a forerunner in both Japan and the
United States.26 Ono moved between London, Japan, and the United States for
decades (though she has been settled in New York since 1971); she is thus an
interesting test case for Terry Smiths proposition that conceptualism was an outcome of some artists increased global mobility. 27 However, though her work was
formally and conceptually groundbreaking, she continues to be under-recognized
as a significant influence on her contemporaries. Unlike most other artists, Ono
had to contend with and respond to the special scrutiny of being thrust onto an
international stage and subject to the harsh glare of the media spotlight. She was
watched, admired, and despised in her many roles as artist, performer, musician,
mother, and wife.28 Art historian Joan Kee writes that for women artists from Asia
who exhibit in the US and Europe, the emphasis on the individual . . . results in the
subordination of the work to a host of other concerns.29 In Onos case, the prominence of her personal story continues to outstrip attention to the work itself.
Yet there is always something about Onos oeuvre that has not sat easily within
canonical tales of contemporary art; perhaps it is her persistent interest in the
unmentionable aspects of bodies, with their excesses and strangeness. In some
of the most profound images of her at work, she is sheathed in a bag, a shapeless
and uncanny lump. First performed in 1964, it is Bag Piece (fig. 8, pp. 110 13) in
all its iterations to which she has returned most frequently (its earliest incarnation
was as a related work seen at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1961). Bag Piece presents
body as stuff, as matter, as a heap of meat that emerges from a sac and from then
on must be tended to and cared for, that shits and laughs and cries until the end,
when, in some instances (including, notably, war casualties), it ends up in a bag. It
is here that her conception of the body as a permeable bag is at its most evident.
By focusing on rear ends, flies, and farts within the decorous space of the art institution, and asserting that her actions serve as a call for peace, Ono links her interest
in sexual freedom and body innocence with larger issues of liberation.30 She also
scrambles temporalities by moving between a backward look to the what has been
(the literally behind) and the potential of the what could be. In some respects, museums act as guarantors of history while also addressing themselves to and securing
the future, holding a carefully selected narrative of the past within their walls to lend
shape and meaning to the present. In the early 1970s, Ono and others sought to
expose how flawed and incomplete such accounts of history are. Marrying the temporality of posterity with the materiality of the posterior, Ono created her own version of institutional critique informed by feminism, at a moment when both of these
contested categories were being consolidated within the art world.

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8. Yoko Ono performing Bag Piece (1964) at the
Peace for Christmas UNICEF concert, with John Lennon at the
microphone, Lyceum Ballroom, London, December 15, 1969.
Photograph: Ray Weaver

FOR POSTERITY: YOKO ONO

NOTES
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.
6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.
12.
13.

14.

15.

These sketches are found in her unpublished booklet Yoko


Ono, Title Wanted, One-Woman Show, guest artistJohn
Lennon (c. 1971), Lenono Archive, New York.
Though not a radical antiwar group, UNICEF was widely
respected for its humanitarian aid efforts, and Plastic Ono
Band (pp. 19497) had played at their Peace for Christmas
benefit concert at the Lyceum Ballroom, London, in 1969.
In 1971, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar partnered
with UNICEF to organize the high-profile Concert for
Bangladesh, held in August at Madison Square Garden,
New York, benefiting refugee children and families fleeing
the Bangladesh Liberation War. (Ono and John Lennon
were not involved in the concert.) Attended by over forty
thousand people, it is considered one of the most successful and influential benefits of its kind. The concert serves as
a reminder that activist efforts for peace in the early 1970s
were not focused solely on the war in Vietnam, but also on
other conflicts around the globe.
See Chrissie Iles, Erotic Conceptualism: The Films of Yoko
Ono, in Alexandra Munroe and Jon Hendricks, eds., Yes
Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society and Harry N. Abrams,
2000), pp. 200207.
Yoko Ono, On Film No. Four, in Thirteen Film Scores by
Yoko Ono, London, 68, reprinted in Yoko Ono, Grapefruit: A
Book of Instructions (London: Peter Owen, 1970), n.p.
Mignon Nixon, After Images, October 83 (Winter 1998): 114.
Sigmund Freud, Theories of Development and Regression:
Etiology, in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis,
trans. G. Stanley Hall (New York: H. Liveright, 1920), p. 297.
Julia Kristeva, Les Temps des Femmes, 34/44: Cahiers
de recherche de Sciences des textes et documents, no.
5 (Winter 1979): 519. Kristeva notes at the outset of her
essay that her thoughts on different conceptions of temporality within several generations of the feminist movement
are specific to European women, but they also resonate
beyond her expressed purview.
For more on the complex feminist valences of Cut Piece as
performed by Ono, see my Remembering Yoko Onos Cut
Piece, Oxford Art Journal 26, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 99123.
As recently as 1992, Ono couldnt sell the book anywhere
and so had piles of them still lying around. Yoko Ono,
quoted in Scott MacDonald, Yoko Ono, A Critical Cinema
2: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992), p. 154. Onos book has
since become a sought-after collectors item; as of this writing, it retails on e-commerce sites for around $1,000 per copy.
The Message the Sandwichman Carried in Front of the
Museum from 9 to 6 Everyday of the Show, in Yoko Ono,
Museum Of Modern (F)art (self-published, New York,
1971), n.p.
Letter to Yoko Ono, December 6,1971, in the Lenono
Archive, New York.
List of responses sent to Yoko Ono, December 6, 1971, in
the Lenono Archive, New York.
Midori Yoshimoto, Into Performance: Japanese Women
Artists in New York (Rutgers, New Brunswick, N.J., and
London: Rutgers University Press, 2005), p. 85.
Hendrik Hertzberg, A Reporter at Large: Poetic Larks Bid
Bald Eagle Welcome Swan of Liverpool, New Yorker 48, no.
42 (December 9, 1972): 141.
For a comprehensive overview of Onos use of advertising, see Kevin Concannon, Nothing IsReal: Yoko Onos
Advertising Art, in Munroe and Hendricks, Yes Yoko Ono,
pp. 17681. For more on magazines and newspapers as
a display structure in Conceptual art, see Anne Rorimer,
Siting the Page: Exhibiting Work in PublicationsSome
Examples of Conceptual Art in the USA, in Michael
Newman and Jon Bird, eds., Rewriting Conceptual Art
(London: Reaktion Books, 1999), pp. 1126.

16. For more on Pipers advertisements, see John P. Bowles,


Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment (Durham,
N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011).
17. See Scott Rothkopf, Banned and Determined, Artforum
40, no. 10 (Summer 2002): 14245, 194.
18. Hilton Kramer, The National Gallery Is Growing: Risks and
Promises, New York Times, June 9, 1974.
19. Yoko Ono, The Feminization of Society, New York Times,
February 23, 1972. In this text, a revised version of which
appears in the present catalogue (pp. 21718), she calls
on the feminist movement to transform itself into a serious revolution and discusses lesbianism, the gendered
division of domestic labor, and the performance of
childcare. For a close reading of Rape as both enacting and troubling an exploitative cinematic gaze, see Joan
Hawkins, Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific AvantGarde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000),
pp. 117 40.
20. The year 1971 also saw the publication of Linda Nochlins
classic feminist essay Why Have There Been No Great
Women Artists?, Art News 69, no. 9 (January 1971): 2239.
21. Lisa Tickner, The Body Politic: Female Sexuality and
Women Artists Since 1970, Art History 1, no. 2 (June
1978): 245.
22. Yoko Ono, quoted in MacDonald, Yoko Ono, p. 154.
23. For one refutation of this assessment vis--vis Huebler,
see Gordon Hughes, Exit Ghost: Douglas Hueblers Face
Value, in Diarmuid Costello and Margaret Iversen, eds.,
Photography After Conceptual Art (Oxford, UK: WileyBlackwell, 2010), pp. 7085. Five photographs laid out
sequentially in Onos book depict the facades of New York
apartment buildings and bear a formal resemblance to the
photos in Haackes Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate
Holdings, A Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971,
from 1971.
24. Kevin Concannon, Museum of Modern [F]art, in Munroe
and Hendricks, Yes Yoko Ono, p. 194.
25. See Kynaston McShine, Information (New York: The
Museum of Modern Art, 1970), p. 106.
26. See Reiko Tomii, Concerning the Institution of Art:
Conceptualism in Japan, and Peter Wollen, Global
Conceptualism and North American Conceptual Art, in Luis
Camnitzer, Jane Farver, and Rachel Weiss, eds., Global
Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s1980s (New York:
Queens Museum of Art, 1999).
27. Terry Smith, One and Three Ideas: Conceptualism Before,
During, and After Conceptual Art, e-flux 29 (2011); available at http://www.e-flux.com/journal/one-and-three-ideasconceptualism-before-during-and-after-conceptual-art/.
28. For a nuanced take on how to measure the methodological
weight of Onos biography, see Kristine Stiles, Unbosoming
Lennon: The Politics of Yoko Onos Experience, Art
Criticism 7, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 2152.
29. Joan Kee, What Is Feminist about Contemporary Asian
Womens Art?, in Maura Reilly and Linda Nochlin, eds.,
Global Feminisms: New Directions in Contemporary Art
(New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2007), p. 117.
30. For more on Onos body innocence, see Barbara Haskell
and John G. Hanhardt, Yoko Ono: Arias and Objects (Salt
Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith Books, 1991), pp. 98105.

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31

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE


IN YOKO ONOS WORK
Klaus Biesenbach

A photograph shows Yoko Ono standing at the center of The Museum of Modern
Arts Sculpture Garden. Beside her on the ground is a large glass jar teeming with
black flies and a few drops of Onos perfume, Ma Griffe. In the next image Ono
is absent and the jar is almost empty, as the flies dissipate into the environment
(pl. 96). These two photographs were published in a catalogue for the artists 1971
exhibition Museum Of Modern (F)art at MoMA, a show that in fact never happenedat least not in any conventional sense. Ono had advertised the show in
The Village Voice and the New York Times, and some people even traveled to the
Museum to see the art of this already widely recognized avant-garde figure. Yet
the exhibition was a conceptual artwork by Onono pieces by her were on view in
the galleries, and the show was not sanctioned by the Museum. The photographs
of the flies being released in the Sculpture Garden were not straight documentary
images but photomontages; Onos figure, for instance, had been cut out from a photograph published in another exhibition catalogue five years earlier, and had been
collaged by Ono into the garden setting.1 The 1971 self-published catalogue also
contained photographs, taken throughout the Museum and New York City, on which
superimposed arrows indicated spots where flies had supposedly landed. A few short
texts by Ono described her work and indicated that readers could chart the progress
of the flies in a list, or could cut out postcards from the book to send to their friends.
More than four decades after Ono carried out her conceptual project, she has now
been given a solo exhibition at the Museum, focusing on the period between 1960
and the year of her conceptual show.
Onos art from this period is run through with a complex interplay between her
own absence and presence. At times, she created purely conceptual works,
such as her instruction pieces, which are often just thatinstructions that can be
executed by whoever reads them. She kept these texts free of her handtyping
them or having them handwritten by someone elseand their enactments do not
necessarily require her to be present, or can be enacted in ones imagination.
Performance, as an art medium, often requires an artists physical presence as
part of its meaning and effects; even here, though, Onos landmark 1964 works
included performances as different as Cut Piece (pp. 1069), to which her appearance was initially central, and Bag Piece (pp. 11013), in which she was present
but hidden in a bag, and which can also be performed by other people. Over time,
Ono was able to turn her complex handling of artistic presence and absence into
a sophisticated treatment of a public image, which allowed her to reach a broad
audience with her artistic and political messages.
By the early 1950s, Ono had come up with a radically different form of expression.
Her earliest conceptual artworks were instruction pieces, which, drawing inspiration from music, separated scores from performances. Rather than putting her
own self at the center of the artwork, Ono wrote instructions that could be interpreted by anyone, even in her absence.

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Ono recalls making her first conceptual piece in the backyard of her parents
house in Scarsdale in 1953. She remembered a musical composition exercise
that she had been given in kindergarten in Japan, and it became her habit to

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE IN YOKO ONOS WORK

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KLAUS BIESENBACH

33

translate sounds into musical notes. She soon realized, however, that the complicated patterns that she heard could never be captured exactly. Confronted with
the beauty of experience, she felt, You dont have to transpose. There is another
way of doing it. 2
Ono would write many instruction works over the coming years, assembling them
in 1964 in the book Grapefruit (pp. 1005), which served as a kind of portable
museum of her artwork to date. Beginning in 1970, new editions of the book ran
into the hundreds of thousands of copies and were widely distributed. The instructions in the books first edition are difficult to characterize; some are relatively
straightforward to carry out, others are more enigmatic, and suggest the artists
emotional life. Hinting at her complex relationship to notions of presence and
absence, to revealing versus concealing, Mask Piece I instructs:
Make a mask larger than your face.
Polish the mask every day.
In the morning, wash the mask instead
of your face.
When somebody wants to kiss you,
let the person kiss the mask instead.
1961 winter
Mask Piece I is about more than the enacting of an instruction: it speaks to the
notion of persona, alluding to the distance between a person/artist and the public
image that she or he performs. As such, it predicts Onos work as she went on to
become a globally recognized figure, developing a fame and stature that allowed
her to disseminate her ideas more widely.
Around the time Ono wrote Mask Piece I, she made her own presence and voice
a crucial part of her performance work. Her first solo concert was held at Carnegie
Recital Hall in November 1961 (pp. 6869). Consisting of a series of pieces,
the evening combined music, theater, improvisation, movement, and poetry. A
few days before the event, Ono noticed a professional Nagra tape recorder in
the office of the concerts producer, Norman Seaman. With his permission, she
used it to record short segments of her vocalized poetry. The tape deck produced
some unexpected sounds, which she decided to pursue further, manipulating the
machine. For some reason, she said, I turned it around so that . . . the tape was
going backwards, in reverse. . . . I thought, this is so beautiful, I better copy this. 3
In the concert, Ono layered the resulting recording over poetry that she read
live into a microphone, creating a texture of mumbled words and wild laughter. 4
This interaction of Onos live voice and her recorded voice served to merge her
physical presence with a more conceptual, and physically absent, version of herselfa mediated self, though one carried by her own, recognizable voice and no
one elses. Composers such as Richard Maxfield and John Cage had used tape
recordings, but Ono was unique in combining technology with expressive vocalization.5 She explained that in her musical output she always aimed to reach a pure,
spiritual sound . . . [that] goes beyond music in a way. . . . I was always thinking
in terms of inner struggle and creating things that are interesting because of that
inner struggle. 6
Ono began to attract more public attention with the Carnegie Recital Hall concert,
receiving reviews in the mainstream New York press.7 In 1962, she moved back
to Japan, where she would stay for the next 2 1/2 years. She conceived many of
her most iconic performance works during this period, including Bag Piece and
Cut Piece, which she publicly debuted in a solo concert in July 1964 at Yamaichi
Hall, Kyoto.

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1. Images from Yoko Onos Instagram account, @yokoonoofficial.
2012 15. Photographs: Studio One

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE IN YOKO ONOS WORK

Although Ono treated these works like musical scores, varying them with each
performance, a persistent theme was a contrast between the artists absence and
her presence. Bag Piece emphasizes a sense of hiding, of wanting not to be visible, and also a sense of humor. For the Kyoto performance, Ono and her then husband, Anthony Cox, went onstage carrying a large black bag and got inside. For
several minutes, the audience viewed a dark lumbering form, as the performers
appeared to be removing their clothes inside the bag and then putting them back
on. Finally, they climbed out, looking more ruffled than they had before entering the
bag, and walked silently offstage. Although some sort of transformation had taken
place in front of the audience, its exact nature was unclear, as it was concealed
from view.
At the opposite end of the spectrum that evening was Cut Piece, which was completely dependent on Onos visible presence. Kneeling at the center of the stage,
Ono set a pair of scissors on the floor in front of her. The audience was instructed
to come onstage, one by one, and cut off a piece of her black clothing. Each person was permitted to keep his or her scrap of fabric. Powerful ideas were made
relatable through the sound of the cold metal scissors, the starkness of Onos
body, and the touch of fabric held in the pocket as a reminder of the act.8
For Ono, her physical body itself contributed a layer of meaning to Cut Piece. She
recently said of the 1964 performance of the work, I was very aware that I was
not in my best condition, bodily, and I thought that was good, you know, instead
of showing very beautiful me or something. I was there, a woman, who already
had a baby. 9 Ono realized the work several times over the next three years. She
would recall,
I went onto the stage wearing the best suit I had. To think that it
would be OK to use the cheapest clothes because it was going to
be cut anyway would be wrong; its against my intentions. I was poor
at the time, and it was hard. This event I repeated in several different places, and my wardrobe got smaller and smaller. However,
when I sat on stage in front of the audience, I felt that this was my
genuine contribution.10
This stunning act of offering up her best clothes and being absolutely bodily presentcontributing her own self to the workstands in contrast to the conceptual
and free-flowing instruction pieces and to a work like Bag Piece, the one relying
on the artists presence, the others on a kind of absence. Cut Piece, though, has
since taken various forms, with Ono encouraging other people to carry it out. The
artist and musician Charlotte Moorman performed the work from the 1960s into the
90s. Others, including men, have performed it as well, the work changing each
time depending on the contextjust like a piece of music. In such cases, the artist
herself is absent, but the work remains powerful.11
Ono encouraged the spread of her performance works by engaging with the press.
The transformation, rumor, and commentary that press coverage facilitated gave
her pieces a life beyond the moments when they were performed. Albert and David
Maysles filmed Onos performance of Cut Piece in her second concert at Carnegie
Recital Hall, on March 21, 1965.
In 2003, Ono herself performed Cut Piece again, in Paris, for the first time since
the 1960s. A full-page advertisement in the newspaper Libration, written by Ono,
explained the work in the context of the global conflict in the wake of 9/11.12 She
explained more recently, I thought it was good to show that an artist can be serious about it, that an artist can put their life . . . on the table. 13 A significant change
between Onos 1960s performances of Cut Piece and her 2003 performance was
the immense growth in her global fame, and the vulnerability that came with it.

34

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KLAUS BIESENBACH

Through the modern media, Onos complex approach to issues of presence and
absence grew into a sophisticated handling of a public image, which allowed her
to advance her artistic and political messages. Her access to the press, and the
growth of her persona, were enhanced by her relationship with John Lennon.
Ono first met Lennon at the Indica Gallery, London, on November 8, 1966, while
preparing for the opening of her solo show there the following day. Lennon sponsored Onos next exhibition, at the Lisson Gallery, London, from October to
November 1967, even contributing an idea to the project. By 1968, the two had
become romantic and artistic partners.
Ono encouraged Lennon to pursue artmaking, and in July 1968 he opened his
first exhibition, You Are Here, at the Robert Fraser Gallery in London. Ono recently
recalled the experience of press exposure at the opening:
There were fifty or so reporters, and I thought we were just going
to go to the back room. But he said, No, we will just stand here
and let them take photos. . . . I think avant-garde artists, maybe
hypocritically, would just take the position that they would ignore
the journalists . . . And I thought that John is such a big person, he
is certainly not going to accommodate, but thats what he did. And I
thought, Thats what you do, thats very interesting. 14
Although Ono has always had a layered and thoughtful relationship to her public
image, her collaborations and relationship with Lennon challenged her previous
approach. She notes, I didnt think of myself as an image. John was an image.
And I thought, . . . its good to show that a woman is there too. 15
The media became a useful element in Ono and Lennons collaborations. In
1969, they staged two widely reported week-long events that they called Bed-Ins
(pp. 19899), employing music, humor, and other means to protest the war in
Vietnam. The first of these events took place at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, in
March, shortly after the artists wedding. Reporters from around the world were
invited into the couples honeymoon suite and attended gladly, perhaps expecting some scandal; instead they were asked to participate in a conversation about
peace. Lennon explained the tactic:
We did the Bed-In in Amsterdam just to give people the idea that
there are many ways of protest. . . . Protest for peace in any way, but
peacefully, cause we think that peace is only got by peaceful methods, and that to fight the establishment with their own weapons is
no good because they always win, and theyve been winning for
thousands of years. They know how to play the game of violence.
But they dont know how to handle humor, and peaceful humor
and thats our message really.16
During the Bed-Ins, the couple began to discuss new ways in which to use their
global celebrity for social causes. One result came in December 1969, when they
initiated Onos idea of the WAR IS OVER! advertising campaign (pp. 200203):
like the name of an international product brand, the phrase WAR IS OVER!, with
IF YOU WANT IT in smaller type below, appeared in twelve cities around the
world, through posters, billboards, newspaper advertisements, and fliers. An airplane was even hired to write the message in smoke in the sky above Toronto, in
advance of a press conference there that month. Ono continues to use a variety of
commercial advertising spaces as a medium.17

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While Lennon may have increased Onos access to press outlets, it is important
to recognize that she employed the media before her encounter with the famous
Beatle. In the summer and fall of 1966, for example, in three consecutive issues

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE IN YOKO ONOS WORK

36

37

KLAUS BIESENBACH

of the London-based arts periodical Art and Artists, she placed among the gallery
listings small, humorous instruction pieces encouraging readers to engage in playful actionsGo to Eros fountain and throw in all your jewelleries, for example.18
Ono is now the most publicly visible of the 1960s generation of experimental artists. At the time of writing, she has 4.72 million Twitter followers. Since her first
post on Instagram, on May 12, 2012, she has developed a striking visual signature
there: in many of her posts she is shown from the back, in silhouette (recalling her
image on the 1964 poster for Three Kyoto Events), wearing one of her characteristic hats (fig. 1). Ono says that her assistant took the first of these photographs
without her knowledge, but she allowed him to continue to record these moments,
as they are a new realization of her 1961 Hide Piece.
From 1968 onward, Ono and Lennon collaborated on musical productions that
merged Onos conceptual art and radical politics with her and Lennons musical
sensibilities and celebrity appeal. In the words of cultural critic Jrg Heiser, the collaborations transformed experimental avant-garde improvisation into a pop product. 19 Released in November 1968, and titled by Ono Unfinished Music No. 1:
Two Virgins, their debut album together was edited from recordings produced in a
single night of loosely structured experimentation. Lennon seems to uncover new
guitar tonalities that respond to and interweave with Onos primal vocal sounds.
The album-cover photograph depicts the couple facing the camera naked, at each
others side, while the back cover shows them from the rear, again naked. The
images and album title convey a sense of innocence; conceptually they also recall
Onos Cut Piece and Bag Piece, which toyed with the idea of the striptease and the
audiences expectation of bare flesh. In fact, after censorship issues arose over the
pairs nudity, the album had to be covered by a brown paper wrappera small hole
revealing the faces of the two virgins and the titleproviding a further, serendipitous collision with Bag Piece, as well as with Lennon and Onos idea of Bagism,
which proposed that everyone should wear a bag over themselves, circumventing
potential prejudices and allowing people to listen to one another better.
In 196869, Ono and Lennon created the Plastic Ono Band, based on her idea
of a conceptual band (pp. 19497). With this idea in mind, Lennon made a small
model that included a cassette case, the plastic cover of a vinyl-record cleaning
brush, and other domestic plastic objects, as if the plastic objects were replacing the musicians, like robots replacing human beings. The single Give Peace a
Chancewritten by Lennon and Ono during the 1969 Bed-In in Montrealwas
released under the Plastic Ono Band name and became an antiwar anthem. The
song was among those performed at a December 1969 benefit concert in London
for the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) titled Peace for Christmas, which
launched Onos and Lennons WAR IS OVER! campaign. Here, Ono and Lennon
coordinated a large group of musician friends to perform under the name Plastic Ono
Supergroup.20 The stage was decked with posters displaying their WAR IS OVER!
message, which was also printed on a huge fabric backdrop to the stage. The event
pioneered the now familiar form of the benefit concert with a social message.
The Plastic Ono Bands first studio albums were released in 1970 and titled Yoko
Ono/Plastic Ono Band and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The cover photo on
Onos album shows the artist sitting under a tree in Lennons arms. Lennons album
cover had an almost identical photograph, but with the figures reversed. In 1971
Lennon and Ono coproduced the biggest hit of Lennons solo career, the song
Imagine (pl. 85), inspired by Onos concept of imagine in her work. The importance of the song as a message for peace and hope cannot be overestimated, and
it has taken on new meanings in the context of later global conflicts.

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The first incarnation of the Plastic Ono Band came to an end in 1974. Through
the rest of the decade, Ono continued to create music on her own and with
Lennon. In December 1980, the pair were collaborating on the song Walking

2. A Story. Recorded 197475, released 1997. CD, 4 34 x 4 34" (12 x 12 cm). Rykodisc (est. 1983)
3. Season of Glass. 1981. Vinyl LP, 12 38 x 12 38" (31.4 x 31.4 cm). Geffen Records (est. 1980)
4. Walking on Thin Ice. 1992. CD, 4 34 x 4 34" (12 x 12 cm). Rykodisc (est. 1983)
5. Open Your Box. 2007. CD, 4 34 x 4 34" (12 x 12 cm). Astralwerks (est. 1993)

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE IN YOKO ONOS WORK

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KLAUS BIESENBACH

on Thin Ice. Following a productive day in the studio, they were walking into
their New York apartment building, the Dakota, when Lennon was shot dead. In
Onos music video for Walking on Thin Ice, images of a lake grow brighter and
brighter into all white and darker and darker into all black, making what you see
brighten until it is blindly empty and darken until it is a void. This too is a strategy
of absence and presence.
Onos next album, the LP Season of Glass, was released in 1981, with its cover
image by Ono showing Lennons bloodstained glasses beside a glass half-full or
half-empty of water, a view over Central Park in the background (fig. 3). Here, Ono is
absent, removed from the frame, yet the two objects seem to stand in for the couple.
Following a series of releases throughout the 1980s and 90s, Ono revived the
Plastic Ono Band in 2009 with the album Between My Head and the Sky, which
featured Sean Lennon and recording artists Cornelius and Yuka Honda. She has
since performed with the Plastic Ono Band a number of times, in line-ups including Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Peaches, Iggy Pop,
Lady Gaga, and many more.
For over five decades, Ono has created works that are political and critical while
also managing to be beautiful and optimistic. When looking toward the future, and
thinking of how we can move forward, she refers to the act of uncovering, which
she places in contrast to that of discovering. In a 2014 text she wrote,
Everything that is around us all has miracles inside, if you just
uncover them. But uncovering does not come with prestige. You
dont get an award for uncovering things. To discover something,
you may need a special skill, even some credentials. You may have
to compete with a fellow man to achieve it. Uncovering can be done
even by your teenage son. So you may still prefer the drama of discovering. Since theres no glory in uncovering.21
Uncovering is a game of absence and presence. Onos art has uncovered not
only often concealed aspects of the act of engaging with an artwork (revealing, for
instance, the central role the viewer plays in its creation) but also the ways in which
cultural, social, and political life influence and affect each other. Looking back on
her conceptual 1971 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, we see that she
knew long ago that her groundbreaking practice warranted a solo exhibition there.
Forty-four years later, that show is finally a reality, with the same radicality and
presence it had when she first imagined it.

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6. Yoko Ono performing at Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, U.K., June 29, 2014.
Photograph: Simon Hilton

ABSENCE AND PRESENCE IN YOKO ONOS WORK

NOTES
The author wishes to thank Cameron Foote, Modern
Womens Fund 12-Month Intern, The Museum of Modern
Art, and Julia Lammer, Directors Office and Development
Assistant, MoMA PS1, for their valuable assistance with
this text.
This photograph appears on the inside cover of YOKO at
INDICA (London: Indica Gallery, 1966).
2. Yoko Ono, interview with the author, August 2014.
3. Ibid.
4. Alan Rich, Far-Out Music Is Played at Carnegie, New York
Times, November 25, 1961. This volume, p. 76.
5. See Midori Yoshimoto, Into Performance: Japanese Women
Artists in New York (New Brunswick, N.J., and London:
Rutgers University Press, 2005), p. 91.
6. Ono, interview with the author, August 2014.
7. E.g., Rich, Far-Out Music Is Played at Carnegie, and Jill
Johnston, Life and Art, The Village Voice, December 7,
1961, p. 10. This volume, p. 77. Aside from group concert
reviews, her only previous press had been a short paragraph
by Gene Swenson on her exhibition at AG Gallery in 1961:
Smoke Painting, Artnews 60, no. 5 (September 1961). This
volume, p. 75.
8. For a detailed study of Cut Piece see Julia Bryan-Wilson,
Remembering Yoko Onos Cut Piece, Oxford Art Journal
26, no. 1 (2003):99123.
9. Ono, interview with the author, August 2014.
10. Ono, quoted in Kevin Concannon, Yoko Onos Cut Piece:
From Text to Performance and Back Again, PAJ: A Journal
of Performance and Art 30, no. 3 (September 2008): 89.
11. In 2008, for instance, the artist Jimmy Robert performed
Cut Piece at the Yokohama Triennale in Japan. Rather than
cutting off pieces of clothing, audience members had to tear
pieces of duct tape from the artists skin. The performace
complicated notions of race and gender in the work, allowing for new interpretations.

12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.

1.

18.
19.

20.

21.

40

41

Libration, September 2003. This volume, p. 117.


Ono, interview with the author, August 2014.
Ibid.
Ibid.
John Lennon, in Amsterdam, side two of The Wedding
Album (Apple Records, 1969).
In 2002, for instance, Ono paid for a billboard stating
Imagine all the people living life in peace in Londons
Piccadilly Circus. See Yoko brings peace message to
UK, BBC News, March 5, 2002, available online at http://
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1855507.stm (consulted
January 22, 2015).
Art and Artists 1, no. 7 (October 1966), p. 44.
Jrg Heiser, Against the Wind, against the Wall, in Ingrid
Pfeiffer and Max Hollein, Yoko Ono: Half-A-Wind Show. A
Retrospective (New York: Prestel, 2013), p. 169.
The full line-up comprised Ono, Lennon, George Harrison,
Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Alan White, Jim
Gordon, Billy Preston, Klaus Voormann, Bobby Keys, and
Jim Price.
Ono, Uncover, July 24, 2014, available online at http://
imaginepeace.com/archives/20557 (consulted January 22,
2015), and in the present volume, p. 222.

19601971

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1960 1962

On Sunday, December 18, 1960, Yoko Ono opened the doors of her New York loft,
at 112 Chambers Street, for an evening of piano and saxophone music headlined
by California composer Terry Jennings. It was the inaugural event in what became
known as the Chambers Street Loft Series (pp. 4853). Organized by Ono and La
Monte Young, a composer who had recently relocated from California, the series
featured programs by notable artists, musicians, and dancers, such as Henry Flynt,
Simone Forti, Jackson Mac Low, Richard Maxfield, Robert Morris, and Young himself.
On that brisk winter evening, at the threshold of the new decade, Ono helped initiate
a six-month series that was to significantly shape the direction of art in the 1960s.
Ono had discovered the fourth-floor walk-up through Japanese artist Minoru Niizuma
two months earlier, while visiting downtown Manhattan.1 Ono and composer Toshi
Ichiyanagi, her husband at the time, were living on the Upper West Side, working
various jobs and conducting cultural demonstrations for New Yorks Japan Society.
Born in 1933 in Tokyo, Ono had moved to New York State and enrolled in Sarah
Lawrence College in 1953. She had previously been studying at Tokyos Gakushuin
University, but wanted to be closer to her family, which had relocated to Scarsdale.
In 1956, Ono left her music composition and literature studies at Sarah Lawrence
to marry Ichiyanagi and pursue a life in New York City as an artist.
During the 1950s, Ono and Ichiyanagi established relationships with critical figures
in the New York art scene, including John Cage, whose class in experimental composition at the New School for Social Research inspired an interest in chance and
improvisation in the rising generation of artists and musicians.2 Although Ono and
her friends were beginning to find venues in which they could perform and exhibit
their work, opportunities were limited.
When Niizuma learned that Ono was looking for an affordable space in which to
present both her work and the work of others, he suggested renting a loft in downtown Manhattans warehouse district.3 Greenwich Village, approximately twenty
blocks uptown, had been the stomping ground of artists and musicians since the
Beat Generation colonized it in the mid-1950s. Midtown, meanwhile, housed New
Yorks blue-chip concert halls. Though it seemed illogical to open her space so far
south, Ono, after seeing the loft on Chambers Street, whose rent was $50.50 per
month, envisioned a new frontier in which artists could present their work without
the constraints of established institutions. The night after I looked at that space,
she recalled, I felt my whole fate was sealed. 4
Ono transformed the low-ceilinged, gray-paneled loft into a vibrant meeting place
for artists. She borrowed a baby grand piano from a friend and created makeshift
furniture with fruit crates.5 Her favorite feature of the space was its skylight. When
you were in the loft, she explained, you almost felt more connected to the sky
than to the city outside. 6

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1. Yoko Ono with Figure (192630, cast 1937) by Jacques Lipchitz,
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, c. 1961.
Photograph: Minoru Niizuma

Jenningss program inaugurating the loft series extended over two evenings
and included multiple performers, setting a precedent for the ten events that followed. Though the series skewed toward experimental music, a number of programs also incorporated visual art, dance, and performance, such as Fortis Five

1960 1962

Dance Constructions & Some Other Things and Morriss large-scale installation
An Environment. Notable art-world personalities attended the series, including
Cage, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp, Isamu Noguchi,
Peggy Guggenheim, and Max Ernst, who visited around the time of his spring
1961 Museum of Modern Art retrospective. Ono, however, grew frustrated with her
male peers, who expressed little interest in her work. She reflected, There was
no mention that I should have a concert there, and I wasnt going to be the one
to mention it.7 Despite never featuring in a program of her own, Ono participated
in the works of others and presented, unannounced, at least six new pieces in
the loft: Kitchen Piece, Smoke Painting, Pea Piece, Painting to Be Stepped On
(pl. 13), Shadow Painting (pl. 15), and Add Color Painting.8
Onos lease for 112 Chambers Street contained a typewritten addition stating
that the unit would serve as an art studio for painting on canvas and like material. 9 Though the lease neglected to specify the lofts various other functions, it
did note Onos use of canvas, which figured prominently in her work at the time.
Ono purchased a large amount of the material from an army surplus store and
used it to create the majority of her above-mentioned pieces at the loft. A number of these were carried out on a long stretch of the canvas thatas seen in a
few of the existing photographs from the time (see, for example, pl. 3)Ono had
hung along one wall of the space. The six pieces she created for the loft series
represent some of the earliest public enactments of her instructions, which
she had been conceiving since the mid-1950s. Such instructions generally consist of short written directives specifying actions to be carried out by Ono, by
other participants, or by natural phenomena like sunlight. At Chambers Street,
the artist realized many of the instructions herself. The instruction for Kitchen
Piece reads: Hang a canvas on a wall. Throw all the leftovers you have in the
kitchen that day on the canvas. You may prepare special food for the piece. 10
Beate Sirota Gordon, who in 1958 became the first performing arts director of
the Japan Society, recalled witnessing Onos performance of Kitchen Piece and
Smoke Painting in the Chambers Street loft:
Yoko ran to the refrigerator, took out some eggs, ran to a wall covered with a huge piece of white [canvas] and hurled the eggs onto
the [canvas]. Then she ran back and got some jello which she also
threw at the wall. Then she splattered some sumi-ink on the [canvas] and used her hands as paint brushes. When the painting was
completed, she took a match and set fire to the [canvas]. . . . Luckily,
John Cage had warned Yoko to put a fire retardant on the [canvas]
so it burned slowly, and we escaped a fiery death.11
In the midst of the Chambers Street Loft Series, Ono was preparing for a threeperson program, An Evening of Contemporary Japanese Music & Poetry, with
Ichiyanagi and Toshiro Mayuzumi at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village. In anticipation of the concert, which took place on April 3, 1961, the three performers
worked with Niizuma to create a series of publicity images. Along with traditional
head-shots, Niizuma took photographs of the smartly dressed trio positioned
around the baby grand piano in Onos loft. When the New York Times published
one of Niizumas images alongside a review of the concert, however, Ono had
been cropped out of the group (p. 74).12 Although she was one of the headlining
artists, the article only cursorily discussed her contributions, focusing mainly on
the performances of her male counterparts.
Onos primary contribution to the Village Gate concert was an adaptation of her
short story Of a Grapefruit in the World of Park, which had first appeared in the
Sarah Lawrence College newspaper in 1955 (pp. 1415).13 The original narrative
revolved around a grapefruit, abandoned on a park table after a picnic. The 1961
performance script introduced darker elements, including the lines, Would you like
to speak to the dead? and Is he the one who killed you? 14 In the performance,

44

45

1960 1962

Cage, Ichiyanagi, Young, and other musicians responded to Onos spoken recitations, creating a jarring soundscape. The Times reported that the composition
called for instrumentalists to improvise sounds according to written, rather than
notated, instructions, and their effects were supplemented by the amplified flushing of a sanitary facility. 15
In the spring of 1961, Ono learned that Lithuanian architect and designer George
Maciunas, inspired by the concerts he had attended at her Chambers Street loft,
was developing a performance program for his Upper East Side gallery, located at
925 Madison Avenue. Maciunas ran the gallery with his friend Almus Salcius, who
had been operating his own space in Great Neck, Long Island. They called their
gallery the AG Gallery, at once combining the initials of their first names and referencing the avant-garde. Maciunas oversaw the gallerys concert program, while
Salcius organized visual art presentations.16 Maciunas also programmed a few
exhibitions and invited Ono to present her first solo show in the space.
Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono (pp. 5867) ran from July 17 to July 30, 1961.
Ono recalled that attendance was slim, as many New Yorkers had vacated the
city for the summer.17 Nonetheless, a number of important figures visited the
show, including Cage, Flynt, Gordon, and Noguchi. The presentation centered on
a group of instruction paintings, consisting of at least twelve canvases, and a
small accordion-fold book, Painting Until It Becomes Marble. (The book by that
title illustrated in pls. 17 and 18 may not be the same version shown at AG.) Ono
also exhibited a selection of calligraphic ink drawings on paper. At least three of
the instruction paintings, Painting to Be Stepped On (pl. 13), Shadow Painting
(pl. 15), and Smoke Painting, had been realized in her loft, though it is possible
that new versions of them were shown at AG. Whereas Ono had enacted some of
the instructions herself at Chambers Street, here she distanced herself from the
work by calling for viewer participation.
Each canvas was assigned an instruction that Ono communicated to visitors verbally or, in a few cases, on adjoining handwritten cards. For example, next to
Painting in Three Stanzas (1961; pl. 11)a canvas punctured by a vinea short
text encouraged viewers to imagine the work undergoing a cycle of death and
rebirth (pl. 12). Such division between a works physical and conceptual manifestations was acutely expressed in the catalogue for Onos 1966 London exhibition
YOKO at INDICA: Instruction painting separates painting into two different functions: the instructions and the realization. The work becomes a reality only when
others realize the work. Instructions can be realized by different people in many
different ways. This allows infinite transformation of the work that the artist himself cannot forsee, and brings the concept of time into painting. 18 Ono viewed
her paintings not as finished works of art, but rather as mutable propositions
dependent upon external conditions and the ways in which viewers interpreted
her instructions.
At the time of Onos show, Maciunas could no longer afford to pay the gallerys
electricity bill, and thus, in a break from his usual evening hours, kept the exhibition
open only during the daytime. Ono reflected, Sunlight streaming through the gallery windows cast shadows on the canvasesmaking beautiful, natural changes
to them throughout the day. 19 Indeed, the realization of one work, Shadow Painting
(pl. 15), relied entirely on that play of shadows over its surface.
The AG Gallery exhibition marked the first time that Onos instruction paintings
were presented together as a group. Only one year later, at the Sogetsu Art Center
in Tokyo, she exhibited just the text-based instructions (pls. 2931), encouraging
visitors to realize the paintings in their minds without her direct supervision or her
canvases as a guide. By renouncing her artistic authority and privileging a works
idea over its material form, Ono anticipated developments in Conceptual art.

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1960 1962

46

1960 1962

47

Around the time of Onos AG show, Maciunas asked her if she could think of a
name for the circle of artists, musicians, and dancers who had exhibited and performed together at venues like 112 Chambers Street and his gallery. Ono, however,
had little interest in being subsumed under an artistic movement. She recalled:
The next day, George said Yoko, look. He showed me the word Fluxus in a
huge dictionary. It had many meanings, but he pointed to flushing. . . . thinking it
was a good name for the movement. This is the name, he said. I just shrugged my
shoulders in my mind. 20 Maciunas went on to establish Fluxus as an international
group, in part inspired by the instructions, scores, and events that he first saw in
the work of Ono and her peers.
Just days after her AG exhibition closed, Ono traveled to Montreal to perform A
Grapefruit in the World of Park in the Semaine Internationale de Musique Actuellea
weeklong festival of new music and performance, organized by Canadian composer Pierre Mercure. As with her instruction paintings, A Grapefruit in the World of
Park took a different form each time it was carried out, and in this performance Ono
introduced props, including a garden hat hanging twenty feet above the stage. The
Montreal Star recounted this latest incarnation as follows: As Miss Ono read her
lines (picked at random from the script), she was accompanied by a large number
of loudspeakers through which was played a tape recording of what might have
been the cries of some creature in a terminal stage of idiocy. Sample lines from
Miss Onos script: Lets count the hairs of the dead child. Drink Pepsi-Cola. 21
A few months later, on November 24, 1961, Ono presented another version of A
Grapefruit in the World of Park during her first solo concert, Works by Yoko Ono at
Carnegie Recital Hall (pp. 6869). Approximately twenty artists, musicians, and
dancers participated in the performances, including Byrd, Jennings, Mac Low,
Yvonne Rainer, and Young. Carnegie Recital Hall seated 299 people at the time,
and, according to an account in the New York Times, the venue was packed for
the concert.22 Throughout the evening, Ono used various strategies to engage her
audience, such as turning the lights on and off, using microphones to amplify the
sound of performers, and positioning a man at the back of the room in order to
elicit fear in the audience that someone was behind them.23
As with the Village Gate concert, Ono carefully considered publicity for the event.
She created a poster by piecing together newspaper pages, over which she handpainted the concert details in large text. Maciunas, ever a master of marketing,
photographed Ono with the poster in a series of promotional images that were
ultimately never distributed (p. 12, fig. 1). The official concert program featured an
image by Niizuma of Ono standing in MoMAs sculpture garden alongside what
appears to be Germaine Richiers 1952 bronze The Devil with Claws (pl. 19). Other
images from the session show Ono jovially posed with works including Gaston
Lachaises Standing Woman (1932), Pierre-Auguste Renoirs The Washerwoman
(1917), and Jacques Lipchitzs Figure (192630, cast 1937; pl. 1).
On January 8, 1962, Ono participated in a benefit to raise money for a publication
titled An Anthology. Published by Young and Mac Low and designed by Maciunas,
An Anthology brought together poetry, instructions, scores, and other texts by over
twenty artists, including Ono. Many of the contributors would soon become identified with Fluxus. Maciunas moved to Germany in late fall 1961 and continued
to send his designs back to Young and Mac Low in the United States, while they
worked on raising the funds necessary to print and assemble the volume. Held
at the Living Theatre, the January event featured Onos Touch Poem #5 (c. 1960;
pp. 5457)a small booklet containing hair and collaged pieces of paperin the
lobby and The Chair #1, a performance in which Ono interacted with a chair on the
dramatically lit theater stage.

to Japan the previous summer. Though she planned to stay for only two weeks to do
a concert, she remained until September 1964.24
In the roughly sixteen months leading up to her departure from New York, Ono had
not only co-organized the highly influential Chambers Street Loft Series, presented
her first one-woman exhibition, and performed her first solo concert, but had also
nurtured ideas and relationships that would more fully develop during the decade
ahead. The collaborative, process-oriented artworks that Ono and her peers boldly
put forward during these early years set the tone for their work in the remainder of
the 60s. And yet, Ono was also unafraid to stand alone. She brazenly imagined
a future in which shea Japanese woman whose often immaterial artworks contrasted starkly with modernist precedents like the sculptural giants she had posed
beside at MoMAwould expand the scope of our institutions to accommodate
works that exist primarily in the mind.

Francesca Wilmott

NOTES
1.

See Yoko Ono, interview by Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans


Ulrich Obrist, in Yoko Ono: To The Light (London: Koenig
Books Ltd., 2012), p. 37.
2. Ono and Ichiyanagi attended just one of Cages classes.
See Edward M. Gomez, Music of the Mind from the Voice
of Raw Soul, in Alexandra Munroe and Jon Hendricks,
eds., Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society and Harry
N. Abrams, 2000), p. 237n12.
3. See Yoko Ono, interview by Peyton-Jones and Obrist,
p. 37.
4. Yoko Ono, quoted in Nell Beram and Carolyn BorissKrimsky, Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies (New York: Harry
N. Abrams, 2013), p. 37.
5. Robert Palmer, On Thin IceThe Music of Yoko Ono, in
liner notes to Onobox, six compact discs, Rykodisc RCD
10224/29, 1992.
6. Yoko Ono, quoted in Beram and Boriss-Krimsky, Yoko
Ono, p. 38.
7. Yoko Ono, quoted in Jonathan Cott, Yoko Ono and Her
Sixteen-Track Voice, Rolling Stone, no. 78 (March 18,
1971): 26.
8. See Jon Hendricks, Yoko Ono and Fluxus, in Munroe and
Hendricks, Yes Yoko Ono, p. 39; and Yoko Ono, interview
by Liza Cowan and Jan Alpert, September 11, 1971, audiotape, Pacifica Radio Archives, Los Angeles.
9. Standard Form of Loft Lease, December 1, 1960, The
Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives,
IV.B.1., The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.
10. Yoko Ono, Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, 1964):
n.p.
11. Beate Sirota Gordon, The Only Woman in the Room: A
Memoir (manuscript, 1997), pp. 17576, The Gilbert and
Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives, IV.B.1., The
Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. Published by
Kodansha International in 1998. The manuscript version of
the text has been quoted here, as it contains greater detail
than the published version. Gordon mistakenly refers to the
canvas as paper in this passage.

12. Ross Parmenter, Contemporary Japanese Offering at the


Village Gate Proves Unusual Fare, New York Times, April
4, 1961. This volume, p. 74.
13. The Village Gate concert program additionally listed Onos
composition AOS, with vocals by Simone Forti, though it
was attributed to Toshi Ichiyanagi. It is unknown whether
Ichiyanagi performed an interpretation of Onos work at the
concert.
14. The original typescript score is reproduced in this volume,
pp. 1819.
15. Parmenter, Contemporary Japanese Offering.
16. Owen F. Smith, Fluxus: The History of an Attitude (San
Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1998), p. 33.
17. Yoko Ono, Summer of 1961, in Jon Hendricks, ed., with
Marianne Bech and Media Farzin, Fluxus Scores and
Instructions: The Transformative Years (Detroit: Gilbert and
Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, and Roskilde, Denmark:
Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008), p. 40. This volume,
p. 73. Subsequent citations are to the texts appearance in
this volume.
18. YOKO at INDICA (London: Indica Gallery, 1966), n.p. The
quote cited here is unattributed in the original text but is
considered to have been Onos, and retains the spelling
from the original source.
19. Ono, Summer of 1961, p. 72.
20. Ibid., p. 73.
21. Eric McLean, Novelty in Sound Motif of Festival, Montreal
Star, August 7, 1961.
22. Alan Rich, Far-Out Music Is Played at Carnegie, New
York Times, November 25, 1961. This volume, p. 76. The
hall capacity was confirmed in an e-mail to the author from
Robert Hudson, associate archivist, Carnegie Hall, June
19, 2014.
23. Cott, Yoko Ono and Her Sixteen-Track Voice, p. 26.
24. Ono, interview by Cowan and Alpert.

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As Fluxus gained momentum, many of Onos friends began to disperse internationally. On March 3, 1962, Ono departed for Tokyo, joining Ichiyanagi, who had returned

1960 1962

48

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES

49

SCHEDULE FOR THE CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES


All events took place at the 112 Chambers Street loft except for Philip Corners. Unless otherwise noted, information reflects that which appears in the concert programs. The initial
series schedule, as devised by Ono and La Monte Young, extended through Youngs performances.
The contributions by Simone Forti, Robert Morris, and Dennis Lindberg were added later.

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES


112 Chambers Street, New York
December 18, 1960June 30, 1961
DECEMBER 1819, 1960
Terry Jennings
Two Performances
With Toshi Ichiyanagi, Kenji Kobayashi,
Scott La Faro, and La Monte Young

In December 1960, Yoko Ono rented a loft in downtown Manhattan, on the top floor (the fourth) of a building located at 112 Chambers Street. She not only used
the space as a studio but also offered it as a venue for
artists, musicians, dancers, and composers struggling
to find a place in a contemporary performance scene
dominated by Midtown concert halls. Over the course
of six months, Ono and La Monte Young presented the
Chambers Street Loft Series. Ono recalls that there
were as many as two hundred attendees on any given
evening. These included art-world figures such as John
Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Peggy Guggenheim, Jasper
Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg.
Each of the eleven artists participating in the
series was given a scheduled time slot (usually two evenings) to present his or her program. Several works combined visual art and performance, blurring the distinctions
between mediums. Simone Fortis Dance Constructions,
for example, included Huddle (1961), a performance in
which participants climb atop one another to form an
ephemeral human sculpture. Robert Morriss installation
An Environment (1961) provided a performative experience for visitors, who walked through Passageway, a
plywood corridor painted gray that gradually narrowed
and curved away from the entrance to the loft, with the
faint sound of a heartbeat playing from above.
Though Ono did not present a program of her own,
she participated in various works by others. Additionally,
she installed her instruction-based paintings for the
first time, demonstrating some of them on a horizontal
stretch of canvas that she had hung in the space. She
also used canvas for most of the works in her exhibition
at AG Gallery that summer. Several of these works, such
as Painting to Be Stepped On (1960/1961; pl. 13) and
Shadow Painting (1961; pl. 15), were displayed during
the Chambers Street Loft Series, although Ono may have
made new versions of them for the AG presentation.

JANUARY 78, 1961


Toshi Ichiyanagi
Music
With Robert Dunn, Kenji Kobayashi,
Jackson Mac Low, Richard Maxfield,
Toshiro Mayuzumi, Simone Forti,1 Yoko Ono,
David Tudor, and La Monte Young
JANUARY 2628, 1961
Held at Judson Memorial Church
in Greenwich Village
Philip Corner
Music
With Charles Adams, Styra Avins, Ansel
Baldonado, David Busher, Joseph Byrd,
Du-Young Chung, Michael Corner, Terry
Fracella, Jack Glick, Arlene Rothlein,2
Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Terry
Jennings, Joel M. Katz, Alison Knowles,
Kenji Kobayashi, Jackson Mac Low, Herbert
Marder, Norma Marder, Norman Masonson,
Skip Merems, Larry Poons, Florence Tarlow,
Vincent Wright, Ralph Zeitlin, and
Nicholas Zill

APRIL 89, 1961


Jackson Mac Low
Poetry, Music & Theatre Works
With Chester Anderson, Joseph Byrd, Robert
Dunn, Spencer Holst, Toshi Ichiyanagi,
Joan Kelly, Robert Kelly, Iris Lezak,
Simone Forti, John Perreault, Shimon
Tamari, Diane Wakoski, and La Monte Young
APRIL 2830, 1961
Richard Maxfield
Three Evenings of Picnic and
Electronic Music
With David Tudor and La Monte Young,
among others
MAY 1920, 1961
La Monte Young
Compositions
With Robert Dunn
MAY 2627, 1961
Simone Forti
Five Dance Constructions &
Some Other Things
With Ruth Allphin, Carl Lehmann-Haupt,
Marni Mahaffay, Robert Morris, Steve
Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, and La Monte Young
(audiotape)
JUNE 37, 1961

FEBRUARY 2526, 1961


Henry Flynt
Music and Poetry
With Walter De Maria, Joe Kotzin, Simone
Forti, and La Monte Young, among others
MARCH 45, 1961
Joseph Byrd
Music and Poetry
With Chester Anderson, Judith Dunn,
Robert Dunn, Charlotte Greenspan, Toshi
Ichiyanagi, Iris Lezak, Jackson Mac Low,
Richard Maxfield, Simone Forti, Yoko Ono,
David Tudor,3 Diane Wakoski, and
La Monte Young

1.
2.

Robert Morris
An Environment
JUNE 2830, 1961
Dennis Lindberg
Blind: A Happening 4
With Jake Bair, Charles Cost, and
Ben Spiller

Simone Forti, then married to Robert Morris, appears throughout the programs for the series as Simone Morris.
Arlene Rothlein, as she is commonly known, was married to Malcolm Goldstein and was credited in the program as Arlene
Goldstein.
David Tudor is not listed in the program for the event, but Joseph Byrd has indicated that he was one of the performers. See Joseph Byrd, interview by Klemen Breznikar, Its Psychadelic Baby Magazine, February 9, 2013, http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013/02/joseph-byrd-interview.html.
Ono does not recall this performance and may not have been present for it.

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3.

4.

1960 1962

50

51

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES

2. Yoko Ono with friends at her loft during the Chambers Street Loft Series,
1960 or 1961. Left to right: Ono, Simone Forti, John Cage,
David Tudor, Kenji Kobayashi, La Monte Young, Toshi Ichiyanagi,
and (standing on Onos Painting to Be Stepped On)
Toshiro Mayuzumi and Isamu Noguchi. Photograph: Minoru Niizuma

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3. Unidentified performance in the Chambers Street Loft Series. 1961.


Background: Yoko Onos Add Color Painting (1961)
and other works in progress. Photograph: Minoru Niizuma

4. Yoko Ono during the Chambers Street Loft Series. 1960 or 1961.
Photograph: Minoru Niizuma

1960 1962

52

53

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES

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5. Program for Music and Poetry of Henry Flynt at 112 Chambers Street, New York.
February 25 and 26, 1961. Spirit duplicate, 11 x 8 12" (27.9 x 21.6 cm)

6. Program for Compositions by La Monte Young at 112 Chambers Street, New York.
May 19 and 20, 1961. Spirit duplicate, 11 x 8 12" (27.9 x 21.6 cm)

1960 1962

54

55

TOUCH POEM #5

TOUCH POEM #5
c. 1960

Touch Poem #5 is a handmade booklet whose thirty-two


pages are punctuated with locks of black and red hair
(Onos own and that of a friend) and horizontal strips
of cut white paper. Containing no written text apart from
the title, the poem turns the act of reading into a tactile
encounterviewers can run their hands over the pages
to experience the various textures and the staccato patterns of the paper collage elements, which differ in length
and seem to be arranged according to a numeric or linguistic logic.
One of Onos earliest extant artworks, Touch
Poem #5 was likely the fifth such object of a series,
although no record remains of numbers one through four.
It was first shown in the lobby of the Living Theatre, New
York, on January 8, 1962, during a benefit concert for An
Anthology, a publication edited by La Monte Young that
included contributions by many artists who had participated in the Chambers Street Loft Series (pp. 4853).
In May 1962, Ono showed the work againthough
possibly a new version of itat the Sogetsu Art Center,
Tokyo, on the occasion of her concert and exhibition there
(pp. 8691). Throughout the 1960s, Ono explored the
theme of touch in various formats, including postcards,
instructions, and performances.

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7 and 8 (next page). Touch Poem #5. c. 1960. Human hair, cut-and-pasted paper,
and ink on paper, open 9 78 x 13 716" (25 x 34.1 cm); closed 9 78 x 6 78" (25 x 17.5 cm)

1960 1962

56

57

TOUCH POEM #5

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1960 1962

58

59

PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO

PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO


AG Gallery, New York
July 17 30, 1961

Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono, Onos first solo


exhibition, took place in July 1961 at the short-lived
AG Gallery, located at 925 Madison Avenue. Artist and
designer George Maciunas and his friend Almus Salcius,
an art dealer at the time, codirected the gallery. All the
works on view in Onos exhibition were made earlier that
year or completed during the course of the show, and are
now lost or no longer extant.1
The paintings were manifestations of Onos
instructions, which were communicated verbally to visitors or written on cards placed beside the pieces. (Some
of these works were first realized during the Chambers
Street Loft Series, though different versions might have
been shown at AG.) Most works required the participation of the artist or visitors. Smoke Painting involved
burning holes in a piece of canvas with either a cigarette or a candle; according to the instruction, the work
was completed only when the canvas had been entirely
destroyed. Painting to Be Stepped On (pl. 13) was placed
on the floor and meant to be walked upon. (The circle of
canvas in Waterdrop Painting [Version 1] [pl. 14] was
cut from Painting to Be Stepped On and was installed
nearby, with a bottle of water hung from the ceiling above
it [pl. 16]). Other works relied on their environment to be
realized. Shadow Painting (pl. 15), for instance, was a
piece of canvas over which sunlight streaming through
the windows (and through a translucent screen installed
in front of them) cast shadows of the window framework
and the lettering on the glass.
The drawings were sumi-ink compositions on
sheets of white paper and referred to the tradition of
Japanese calligraphy. One work loosely resembled a
musical staff missing the fifth line; another consisted of a
field of black ink that almost entirely covered the sheet.
Painting Until It Becomes Marble, an accordionfold book, was displayed alongside a bottle of sumi ink
on a table placed before the windows and the translucent
screen placed in front of them.2 According to the instructions for the piece, later published in the artists book
Grapefruit (1964; pp. 100105), visitors were asked to
cut their favorite parts until the whole thing is gone or,
alternatively, to paint black ink over them. 3

1. The following paintings


are known to have been included:
Painting to Be Stepped On (pl. 13);
A plus B Painting; Painting for the
Wind; Painting in Three Stanzas
(pls. 11, 12); Painting to Let the
Evening Light Go Through; Painting
to See in the Dark (Version 1) (pl. 9);
Painting to See in the Dark (Version
2); Painting Until It Becomes Marble;
Shadow Painting (pl. 15); Smoke
Painting; Time Painting; Waterdrop
Painting (Version 1) (pl. 14); and
Waterdrop Painting (Version 2).
2. The book by that title illustrated in this section [pls. 17, 18] may
not be the same version that was
shown at AG.
3. Yoko Ono, Grapefruit (Tokyo:
Wunternaum Press, 1964), n.p.

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9. Yoko Ono with Painting to See in the Dark (Version 1) (1961), at AG Gallery,
New York, July 1961. Photograph: George Maciunas

1960 1962

60

61

PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO

11. Painting in Three Stanzas. 1961. Installed in


Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono. Sumi ink on canvas with vine,
dimensions unknown. Instruction (pl. 12) partially visible at
upper right. Photograph: George Maciunas

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10. Poster for Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono. 1961.


Designed by Yoko Ono and George Maciunas. Offset, 8 x 10 316" (20.3 x 25.8 cm)

12. Instruction for Painting in Three Stanzas. 1961.


Handwritten by Toshi Ichiyanagi. Ink on the
back of an AG Gallery program announcement card,
3 38 x 10 58" (8.5 x 27 cm)

1960 1962

62

63

PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO

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13. Painting to Be Stepped On. 1960/1961.
Installed with instruction in Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono.
Sumi ink on canvas, dimensions unknown.
Photograph: George Maciunas

14. Waterdrop Painting (Version 1). 1961.


Installed in Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono.
Sumi ink and water on canvas, dimensions unknown.
Photograph: George Maciunas

1960 1962

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PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO

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15. Shadow Painting. 1961. Installed in Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono.
Sumi ink and shadows on canvas, dimensions unknown.
Photograph: George Maciunas

16. View of Paintings & Drawings by Yoko Ono.


From left: Waterdrop Painting (Version 1) (1961; pl. 14) (on floor);
Painting Until It Becomes Marble (1961) (on table);
and Painting to Be Stepped On (1960/1961; pl. 13) (on floor).
Photograph: George Maciunas

1960 1962

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67

PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY YOKO ONO

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17 and 18. Painting Until It Becomes Marble. 1961.


Ink on paper, unfolded 6 14" x 9' 3 1316" (15.9 x 284 cm); folded 6 14 x 4 14" (15.9 x 10.8 cm)

1960 1962

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WORKS BY YOKO ONO

WORKS BY YOKO ONO


Carnegie Recital Hall, New York
November 24, 1961

Yoko Onos 1961 Carnegie Recital Hall presentation, her


first solo concert, included A Grapefruit in the World of
Park, A Piece for Strawberries and Violin, and AOSTo
David Tudor. A fourth work, Hide Piece, was also performed, although it was not listed on the concert program
and may have been incorporated into one of the other
performances. About twenty of Onos friends participated in the Carnegie concert, playing various roles.
In A Grapefruit in the World of Park, Ono recited
a text into a microphone on the darkened stage. The text
was based on a short narrative she wrote that was published in her college newspaper in 1955 and that unfolds
around the peeling and distribution of a grapefruit at a picnic. The performed work, which Ono had first presented
in April at New Yorks Village Gate, was a radically different version, now a series of phrases, sometimes disparate, with macabre elements like the repeated statement,
Lets count the hairs of the dead child. 1 Ono instructed
musicians to improvise in response to the verses. As in
the Village Gate concert, a performer stationed in the
bathroom with a stopwatch and microphone flushed a
toilet at designated times, providing a humorous realworld intrusion into the event.
A Piece for Strawberries and Violin comprised,
as noted by one reviewer, neither strawberries nor violin.2 Choreographer Yvonne Rainer and another female
performer took turns standing up and sitting down.
They then began to eat from a table at the center of
the stage. This seemingly mundane activity escalated
as the sounds of their actions were increasingly amplified by a microphone hidden somewhere nearby. The
work ended with the performers smashing their dishes,
an unexpected finale highlighted by several critics who
reviewed the concert.
The last performance, AOSTo David Tudor,
was a complex opera, with parts set to a soundtrack consisting of recorded words and mumblings, Onos own
distinctive vocalizations, and audio playback of events
that had been recorded earlier in the performance. In
the first act, the lights were turned off and participants
attempted to read newspapers by match light. In the next,
tin cans and chairs were bound to a group of performers
who were instructed to move across the stage without
making a noise. Toward the end of the concert, a large
canvas was hung across the stage. Dancers cut holes
through the material and stuck out their limbs and various
objects, such as flashlights, as an audiotape of Onos
vocal improvisations played.

1. Reproductions of the text as


it appeared in Onos school newspaper appear on pp. 1415. The typescript for the later version appears on
pp. 1819.
2. Alan Rich, Far Out Music Is
Played at Carnegie, New York Times,
November 25, 1961. This volume, p. 76.

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19 and 20. Recto (top) and verso (bottom) of program flier


for Works by Yoko Ono. 1961. Designed by Ono and incorporating photograph
by Minoru Niizuma. Offset, 5 12 x 8 12" (13.9 x 21.6 cm)

19601962

A LETTER TO GEORGE MACIUNAS

... if you are going to talk about being fair to Jackson


MacLow whos credit was taken by Andy Warhol, etc., use the
same caution and sense of justice to write about Chamber Street
Loft, you shouldnt write as if La Monte Young was the producer
just because he has taken the credit for it. I agree with him
or you that he was the editor of the Anthology magazine, but
I dont agree at all that he was the producer of the shows at
my loft. I am not alone in this.

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71

YOKO'S VOICE

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES

The idea was mine, and we did it together.

Yoko Ono, November 18, 2014

Once I tried to tell you on the phone about what happened in


Chamber Street Loftand you stopped me from talking about it by
saying We dont talk about the pastthats past. But if you
are going to write about the past, its only fair to find out
my side of the story of what happened therebecause you were
not there and didnt know.
For instance, Marcel Duchamp was brought by Earle Brown, not
John Cage. In my Village Gate Concert, John Cage, David Tudor,
and LaMonte Young performed in my piece as wellthis was
decided at the last moment, and was done. So I repeat, dont
talk about what you dont know.

Excerpt from a letter by Yoko Ono to George Maciunas,


December 3, 1971.

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19601962

SUMMER OF 1961

Early summer, I got a call from one of the artists who did one
of the evening performances at my loft on Chambers Street. He
said there was this guy who opened a midtown gallery on Madison
Avenue and was planning to do exactly what I had been doing
in my Chambers Street loft. All the Chamber Street Series artists were now lining up in front of his gallery, the artist
said. The guy got the idea when he came to one of the evenings at your loft. His name is George Maciunas. You were probably introduced. Do you remember him? I didnt. There were
about 200 people attending those evenings at my loft. Many of
them wanted to say hello to me. So I might have been introduced
to the guy. I felt a bit miserable. Youre finished, Yoko.
Hes got all your artists. Oh, I thought, so the Chamber
Street Loft series would be over. Finito. That didnt make me
feel that bad. So whats next? Then I got a call from George
Maciunas himself. He wanted to do my art show in his gallery.
Nobody ever thought of giving me a show yet in those days. So
the guy who supposedly finished me off is now giving me a
show? Things work in mysterious ways. I was happy.

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73

YOKO'S VOICE

Toshi stopped there. He didnt do any more cards. Why? Why not?
You can see those two signs glaring out of those photos from
the show that have managed to survive all these years later. I
am very thankful for those two cardswithout them, no one would
ever know that this was my first show of Instruction Paintings.
When George and I finally put up all the paintings, and put a
card that said 400 dollars on the side of each painting, we
looked at each other. What if somebody bought one painting?
What are we going to do then? If somebody bought one painting,
we can go to Europe! he said. We felt like somebody already
bought one. We became so happy we suddenly took each others
hands and danced around the room.
George said we had to have a name for this movement that was
happening. You think of the name, he told me. I said, I
dont think this is a movement. I think its wrong to make it
into a movement. To me, movement had a dirty soundlike we
were going to be some kind of an establishment. I didnt like
that. So I didnt think of any name.
The next day, George said Yoko, look. He showed me the word
Fluxus in a huge dictionary. It had many meanings, but he
pointed to flushing. Like toilet flushing! he said laughing, thinking it was a good name for the movement. This is the
name, he said. I just shrugged my shoulders in my mind.

It was dusk when I visited the AG gallery for the first


time. The staircase in the hall was already half dark. I went
upstairs, and the door was wide open. I entered into an already
dark room. I heard some people just whispering to each other
and laughing in another room. The light was coming from that
room. As I walked over, I saw a very handsome man, obviously
European, with a beautiful woman sitting together at a table in
candlelight. They both looked at me. I remember thinking what
a romantic picture the two of them made! There was an IBM typewriter on the table gleaming in the dark. One of the artists
had once commented, That IBM typewriter! That alone must be
something. Just means hes rich! But turns out, everything was
not as it seemed.

The summer of 1961 was very hot, and only few people came
to the show. I remember some dear friends who did show up. I
remember explaining the Smoke Painting to John Cage, and actually made thin smoke come out of the canvas ... like the smoke
you get from burning incense. I remember Beate Gordon and her
daughter, Nicky, who were encouraging about my work. That was
a nice surprise. Beate called me later, and said, Yoko, Nicky
liked it. I was so scared that she would not like it, that I
told her not to say anything. I found out later that she actually liked it and wanted to say something, but I told her not
to say anything! We both laughed. I remember Isamu Noguchi,
stepping on Painting To Be Stepped On with a pair of elegant
Zohri slippers. All that seems like yesterday.

The very young and pretty woman George was sitting with was
actually his mother. They used the candle because the electricity was cut off. And that great looking IBM typewriter? It was
a loaner. George also had phones everywhere. There was a story
for that, too. He told me his phone service was listed under a
new name every month. Whenever his phone was cut off, he just
registered a new phone under a new name. Of course, that night
I, like the rest of the artists, just thought, WOW!

George had a closet full of very expensive canned goods. They


were canned gourmet nobody wanted to buy because they were so
expensive. A friend of his had the great idea that it would
make a fortune, which it didnt. So George got them. That was
our meal every day: canned foie gras. It wasnt bad. But I
thought it needed something with it. Just something.

George told me that he wanted to do a show of my artwork. That


was to be the last show in this gallery. The electricity was
already cut off, so we had to do it just during the day. That
did not faze me. So I started to assemble the works I wanted to
show. The fact that there was no electricity actually worked
to my advantagesunlight streaming through the gallery windows
cast shadows on the canvases, making beautiful, natural changes
to them throughout the day. The works on display all had some
function. I stood in the gallery, and when people came, I took
them around to each painting, and explained what the function
of each piece was. I asked Toshi Ichiyanagi to write out cards
explaining the functions to display on the side of each painting. Well, he managed to write two cards. One was Painting To
Be Stepped On, and the other was Painting In Three Stanzas.

We used to walk around the city. It was warm and rather


quiet. Most people on the Upper East Side probably went to the
Hamptons or something. We felt good, like we owned the city.
Both of us were totally bigheaded people. So, yes, we were the
owners of something. Maybe not the city, but something... maybe
not so tangible.... As they say, those were the days.

y.o.
April 08

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74

1960
196
01962
1962

75

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Yoko Ono, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and


Toshiro Mayuzumi. 1961.
Uncropped photograph by Minoru Niizuma.

Ross Parmenter, Contemporary Japanese


Offering at the Village Gate Proves Unusual
Fare, New York Times,
Times, April 4, 1961.

Gene Swenson, Artnews 60, no. 5 (September 1961): 17.

1960
196
01962
1962

76

77

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Alan Rich, Far-Out Music Is Played at Carnegie,


New York Times,
Times, November 25, 1961.

Jill Johnston, Life and Art, The Village Voice


Voice,
,
December 7, 1961: 10.

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79

1962 1964

In 1962, Yoko Ono began to feel that the New York art scene was becoming a rigid
and limiting establishment. Her husband, the composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who had
returned to Japan in 1961, arranged a concert for her at the Sogetsu Art Center in
Tokyo. Intending to visit for just a few weeks, Ono wound up staying for two and a
half years. Her stay in Japan turned out to be one of the most difficult and transformative periods in her career. Just as her life went through dramatic changes,
her art began to shift its orientation from the avant-garde to the popular, with a
greater emphasis on public interaction. In a way, this shift anticipated her future
collaborations with John Lennon and many of her current endeavors, which involve
the broad public.1 She claimed that some of the works she would later enact in
New York, London, and elsewhere were inspired directly from the environment in
Japan and born out of the exchanges she had with Japanese people.2
The concert that Ichiyanagi had arranged, titled Works of Yoko Ono (pp. 8491),
held at Sogetsu on May 24, 1962, was widely anticipated, with the press celebrating Onos novelty as a young female composer and poet who had come back to
Japan from New York after ten years. In addition to the concert, there was a solo
exhibition in the lobby that included, among other works, the artists Touch Poems
and Instructions for Paintings (pls. 2831), both of which were radical for inviting
interaction: the former encouraged the viewers to explore the sensation of touch,
while the latter prompted them to complete paintings in their minds. The concert
centered on the theme of kehai (vibration) and was inspired by Buddhas halfclosed eyes. Ono wished the audience to seek out something ineffable, such as
vibration, and to both view the world before them (the performances) and look
into their inner worlds, inhabiting a state of being symbolized by Buddhas meditative gaze.3 The concert was intentionally dimly lit and the works involved only
subtle sounds and movements; the intention was to intrigue the audience and
lead them to focus on their senses while engaging with her performances. It was
quite shocking to those of us in Japan who were mainly looking at Western art
and music for inspiration, the graphic designer Kohei Sugiura recalls. Ms. Onos
concept was to return action or a way of thinking to its origin, which was opposite
of what we were doing. 4 Sugiura was one of approximately thirty vanguard artists
who performed at Onos concert. Others included Genpei Akasegawa, who later
founded the collective Hi Red Center, and Tatsumi Hijikata, creator of the dance
form ankoku butoh (dance of darkness). The participating artists obediently followed Onos Zen koanlike instructions to enact straightforward actions, such as
sweeping the stage with a broom.
The concert began with Onos solo A Piano Piece to See the Skies, which consisted of inaudible sounds (made by faintly touching the pianos keys), sounds
that reached the sky, and breathing.5 While breathing hard in the third movement,
Ono lit a match and smoked a cigarette, an action that was considered a realization of her 1955 instruction Lighting Piece (pl. 25). As in this instance, many small
works that were not listed in the program, such as Hide Piece and Question Piece,
were incorporated into larger works. Audience Piece to La Monte (pl. 27) was used
as the finale for AOSTo David Tudor (pl. 24). Characterized as an opera without
any sound of instruments, 6 this finale consisted of twenty performers standing
at the front of the stage and silently watching the members of the audience. The

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21. Still from the documentary film Aru wakamono-tachi


(Some young people, 1964), directed by Chiaki Nagano, showing Yoko Ono selling
Onos book Grapefruit (1964) in Ginza, Tokyo. At right: Anthony Cox

1962 1964

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81

1962 1964

abrupt reversal of the roles of performer and audience was so upsetting that at one
point someone came onstage to pinch the noses of the performers one by one,
eventually precipitating a fight.7 Onos legendary concert introduced a new form of
art to Japanoften referred to as Happenings.
Onos concert had a strong impact at the time, receiving nearly a dozen reviews.
She found, however, that most critics merely followed Western artistic trends and
derided her work as eccentric, sometimes making up rumors about her private life.
American expatriate critic Donald Ritchie attacked her in a popular art magazine,
declaring that all her ideas were borrowed from John Cage. Ichiyanagi published
a statement in the next issue of the magazine, defending Ono and her art.8 As
Ono recalled, she feared her bad reputation would harm her husbands blossoming
career, and she gradually isolated herself, growing increasingly depressed.9 While
recovering from her depression, she met Anthony Cox, an American who told her
that he had seen her work in New York and came to Japan to meet her.10 By October
she was well enough to participate as a performer and translator in a Japanese
concert tour by John Cage and David Tudor. Although she presented bold interpretations of Cages pieces, such as laying herself on top of the piano in his Music
Walk (1958), her creative interventions were largely ignored by the press.
In 1963, Ono and Cox married, and their daughter, Kyoko, was born. While this was
a difficult time, in which she worked odd jobs (barely enough to make ends meet)
and cared for her newborn child, Ono still managed to create numerous instructions and to perform some of them in public. In 1964, she self-published Grapefruit
(pp. 100105), an anthology of her instructions and product of her work up until this
point. The instructions, some written in Japanese, most in English, were organized
into five sections: Music, Painting, Event, Poetry, and Object. The collection
further solidified the belief she put forth at Sogetsu: that the instructions were a
form of art on their own. The idea of advocating language as art anticipated the
international Conceptual art movement,11 but Onos work went further than this. Her
intention was that others would put her instructions into action, or enact them in
their minds, and in this sense her works resonated with those of her Fluxus peers.
Ono experienced an explosion of creative energy in 1964. This productive period
coincided with that of the Tokyo avant-garde, which began exploring alternative
spaces, such as the Naiqua Gallery, and outdoor venues for their exhibitions and performances, due to the discontinuation of the annual Yomiuri Independent Exhibition.
Ono performed a series of new events at Naiqua in early 1964, including Touch
Piece (pp. 9293), Fly, and 9 A.M. to 11 A.M., which was later renamed Morning Piece
(pp. 9499). Among the events attendees were active Fluxus member Nam June
Paik, and other artistssuch as Shigeko Kubota, Mieko (Chieko) Shiomi, Takehisa
Kosugi, and Yasunao Tonewho later became involved in Fluxus in New York.
For Touch Piece, participants, including Ono, sat in a circle and touched each
other in silence.12 Ono was absent from the performance of Fly, for which she
asked invitees to come with preparations to fly, 13 encouraging them to interpret
the piece freely, without her influence.14 Many of them jumped from a ladder that
was set up in the gallery. Later they discussed whether the act of flying was the
same as dying. As early participants in Fluxus, Ono and Paik served as catalysts in promoting the idea of the event in Japan and brought information on
like-minded Japanese artists, including those of Hi Red Center, to New York.15
Ono played a leading role in disseminating the early forms of performance and
Conceptual art in Japan, and was at the center of the Tokyo avant-garde community, whose members were interested in challenging and subverting the norms of
mainstream culture.

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Ono was featured prominently as the only female artist in the documentary film Aru
wakamono-tachi (Some young people), made by Chiaki Nagano and broadcast
on Japanese television in 1964. The film introduced a group of artists performing

22. Tickets for Three Kyoto Events: Contemporary


American Avant-Garde Music Concert: Insound and Instructure, Yamaichi Hall;
Evening till Dawn, Nanzenji Temple; Symposium: !, French Cancan Coffee House. 1964.
Four offset sheets with ink stamps, each 2 78 x 9 1516" (7.3 x 25.2 cm)

1962 1964

82

1962 1964

83

on the streets, including Ushio Shinohara and Zero Jigen (Zero Dimension).
Highlighting the ways in which the 1964 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo, transformed Japan into a rising economic power and consumer society, it suggested
that the happy atmosphere might be full of superficial peace, and depicted these
artists as critics of the society, resisting the myth of happiness.16 In contrast to the
male artists showy performancessuch as Shinoharas destruction of paintings
and the members of Zero Jigens crawling about on the streetsOnos actions
were distinctly modest. For example, she left white flowers, one by one, at various places on the street in the piece Flower Event. The only person who dared to
engage with one of them was a schoolgirl, who purposefully stepped on a flower
placed on the sidewalk. Ono stated in the film:

Even though critics did not have adequate language or the necessary framework
to assess her work, they paid special attention to her as a guru of new art. 24 The
respected critic Shuzo Takiguchi regarded her art as a natural action against contemporary art, which has been corrupted, standardized, and confused. 25 Onos
sojourn in her native country was short, but it was significant in that she reconnected with her cultural roots. Quiet and contemplative, transformative and subversivethese were the founding qualities of Onos art, as they were formed in the
crucible of her years in Japan.

Midori Yoshimoto

Art is not a special thing. Anyone can do it. Making art does not
have to be so unusual. What I mean is that middle-aged men and
housewives, your neighbors, can also do it. Being an artist is not so
unusual. If everybody were to become an artist, what we call Art
would disappear. I think it would be fine if this were to happen and
[what I have envisioned] becomes a reality.17

NOTES
This essay partly stems from chap. 3, The Message is the
Medium: The Communication Art of Yoko Ono, in Midori
Yoshimoto, Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists
in New York (New Brunswick, N.J., and London: Rutgers
University Press, 2005), pp. 92103, and Yoshimoto,
Works of Yoko Ono, 1962, in Alexandra Munroe and Jon
Hendricks, eds., Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society
and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), pp. 15052.

Ono intentionally presented her works inconspicuously to make a point about art
disappearing into everyday life. Her subtle artistic campaign sought to destroy the
institution of art through simple expressions encountered in the mundane world.
The film also showed Ono and Cox performing her Morning Piece under a tree on
the Tama riverbank. Passersby could stop and purchase glass shards, which were
labeled as various mornings of the future. By incorporating poetic gestures into
peoples ordinary routines, Ono hoped that people would slow down the pace of
their lives. She stated: I am interested in, say, delaying our culture by introducing
to our life such a useless act or more and more useless things. 18 Ono furthered her
campaign by inviting people to the apartment she shared with Cox and performing
for them. The photographer Minoru Hirata, who frequented the apartment around
then, published a photo essay featuring them in a popular weekly magazine.19 In
one of the photos, Ono and Cox are seen emerging from a giant black bag as they
finish performing Bag Piece (pp. 11013) for the photographer. By appearing in the
film and the article, Ono expanded her audience to the broader public, hoping to
transcend the closed circuit of the artistic vanguard.
Before leaving for New York in late August 1964, Ono held two more concerts. The
first was at the Yamaichi Hall in Kyoto and featured the public premieres of Cut
Piece (pp. 1069), Bag Piece, and Snake Piece; the second concert was at the
Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo and included these works and others.20 Artist and filmmaker Jeff Perkins, who performed in the Tokyo concert, recalls of Snake Piece:
Yoko turned out the lights in the hall, and she announced that she had released
two snakes out into the audience and that they could light one match only to
see if they could see any snakes. 21 The snakes (although there were likely none
actually present) served to symbolize that which we are afraid of, while the darkness represented the unknown. The theme of exploring the unknown and looking
deeply into oneself united most of Onos pieces. Although Cut Piecein which
she invited audience members to cut off pieces of her dresswas sensationalized as a striptease in Japanese reviews, the misunderstanding was perhaps
inevitable, since the concert was subtitled Strip-Tease Show. According to Ono,
however, to strip is not to reveal to others, but to discover something hidden in
humans. 22 She saw Cut Piece as an opportunity for audience members to learn
something of themselves.

All quotes from Japanese sources were translated by


the author.
1.

Regarding the implications of Onos relationship with


Lennon, see Kristine Stiles, Unbosoming Lennon: The
Politics of Yoko Onos Experience, Art Criticism 7, no. 2
(Spring 1992): 2154.
2. Yoko Ono, Instructions in the Marital Arts: A Conversation
with Yoko Ono, interview by Robert Enright, Border
Crossing no. 13, no. 1 (Winter 1994): 36.
3. Ono, Waga ai, waga toso [My love, my struggle] (1974),
in Yoko Ono, Tada no Atashi [Just me], ed. Takahiko iimura
(Tokyo: Kodansha, 1986), pp. 2829.
4. Kohei Sugiura, interview by the author, June 28, 2014.
5. Toshi Ichiyanagi, Saizenei no koe: Donarudo Richi e
no hanron [Voice of the most avant-garde: Objection to
Donald Richie], Geijutsu shincho [New trends in art] 13, no.
8 (August 1962): 138.
6. Daitanna kokoromi: Ono Yoko no ivento [Bold experiment: Yoko Onos event], Asahi ja naru [Asahi journal],
June[?] 1962: 45.
7. Kuniharu Akiyama, Sogetsu Art Center, in Kuniharu
Akiyama, ed., Bunka no shikakenin [The entrepreneur of
culture] (Tokyo: Seidosha, 1985), p. 486.
8. Donald Richie, Tsumazuita saizensen: Ono Yko no
zen ei sh [Stumbling front line: Yoko Onos avant-garde
show], Geijutsu Shinch [New Trends in art] 13, no. 7 (July
1962): 6061. This volume, pp. 11819; trans., pp. 12223.
Ichiyanagi, Saizenei no koe, pp. 13839. This volume,
pp. 12021; trans., pp. 12425.
9. Ono, waga ai, waga ts, pp. 3032.
10. Ibid., p. 33.
11. For a discussion of Onos early conceptualism, see Reiko
Tomii, Concerning the Institution of Art: Conceptualism in
Japan, in Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farver, and Rachel Weiss,
eds., Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s1980s
(New York: Queens Museum of Art, 1999), pp. 1819.

12. Takahiko iimura, Ono Yoko: Hito to sakuhin [Yoko Ono:


Portrait, events, and works] (Tokyo: Bunka shuppan-kyoku,
1985), p. 83.
13. Ono, postcard announcement for Fly at Naiqua Gallery,
Tokyo, 1964.
14. Ono, Symposium:!, tape recording of a symposium held at
the French Cancan Coffee House, Kyoto, July 22, 1964.
Courtesy the artist.
15. For more on Fluxus-related development in Japan, see
Midori Yoshimoto, Fluxus Nexus: Fluxus in New York and
Japan (2013), http://post.at.moma.org/content_items/199fluxus-nexus-fluxus-in-new-york-and-japan.
16. Yoshimoto, Some Young PeopleFrom Nonfiction
Theater: Transcript of a Documentary Film Directed by
Chiaki Nagano, in Reiko Tomii, ed., 1960s Japan: Art
Outside the Box, special issue, Review of Japanese
Culture and Society 17 (December 2005): 1421. For
more discussion on this film, see Yoshimoto, Off Museum!
Performance Art That Turned the Street into Theatre,
Circa 1964 Tokyo, Performance Paradigm no. 2 (March
2006): 10218.
17. Ono, quoted in Yoshimoto, Some Young People,
pp. 1516.
18. Ibid., p. 18.
19. Minoru Hirata, Kyokumoku wa sutorippu [The number is
strip], Shukan taishu [Weekly masses] (September 10,
1964), unpaginated gravure. I thank Mikihiko Hori for locating the magazine and providing a scan of the image.
20. For more details on these events, see Midori Yoshimoto,
Evening till Dawn, in Munroe and Hendricks, Yes Yoko
Ono, p. 156.
21. Fluxus, Film & Sam: A Conversation with Jeff Perkins,
in Judith A. Hoffberg, ed., Umbrella: The Anthology (Santa
Monica, Calif.: Umbrella Editions, 1999), p. 7.
22. Ono, quoted in Hirata, Kyokumoku wa sutorippu.
23. Ono, quoted in Yoshimoto, Some Young People, p. 19.
24. Hary Ichir, Zenei bijutsu ni tsukaremashita [I grew
tired of avant-garde art], Geijutsu shincho [New trends in
art] 13, no. 8 (August 1962): 148.
25. Shz Takiguchi, quoted in Higashi (given name
unknown), Kisei geijutsu eno teik: Ky no kao, Ono
Yoko [Resistance to the established art: Todays face
Yoko Ono], Yomiuri shinbun [Yomiuri newspaper], evening
edition, April 6, 1962.

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At the end of Naganos documentary, Ono comments: I did various things here in
Japan, but it seemed that what I was doing was not understood and disappeared
into thin air. 23 It is undeniable, however, that she had a significant effect in Japan,
as seen in the press reactions at the time and as subsequent history has shown.

1962 1964

84

85

WORKS OF YOKO ONO

WORKS OF YOKO ONO


Sogetsu Art Center, Tokyo
May 1962

Held two months after Onos return to Japan from New


York, Works of Yoko Ono consisted of events and music
performed in the Sogetsu auditorium on May 24, 1962,
and an exhibition of poems and instructions for paintings
displayed in the lobby.
Ono invited about thirty performers to participate.
Some, such as Takehisa Kosugi and Yasunao Tone, came
from Group Ongaku, a progressive Japanese music collective, and became involved in Fluxus after participating
in the concert. Other participants included French mime
artist Theo Lesoualch; classical instrumentalists; and
music critics, some of whom later reviewed the concert.
Ono had previously realized a few of the pieces
A Grapefruit in the World of Park, AOSTo David Tudor
(pl. 24) and A Piece for Strawberries and Violinat her
November 1961 concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in New
York (pp. 6869). However, the performances in Japan
were very different and often incorporated other works.
For instance, AOSTo David Tudor included Question
Piece, which consisted of Lesoualch and critic Yoshiaki
Tono conducting a French language lesson for twenty
minutes, ending up with conjugations of erotic verbs.1
The program also featured two works not performed at the New York concert, The Pulse (pl. 26) and A
Piece for Chairs #1#10.2 The Pulse involved a group of
seven musicians at a table solving mathematical equations
and producing sounds on instruments. In A Piece for Chairs
#1#10, the title objects served as props in dramatic scenarios. In one act, for instance, several participants sawed
off the legs of the chairs on which they had been sitting.
The evening culminated with Audience Piece
to La Monte (pl. 27).3 The performers formed a line
across the stage, choosing different members of the
audience to watch. As soon as the audience members broke eye contact, the performers redirected their
attention to new people. They continued to stare until
the hall was nearly empty.
The exhibition in the lobby consisted of
Instructions for Paintings, Touch Poems, and Chance
Poems. Ono wrote the short texts that comprise the
Instructions for Paintings in English, translated them
into Japanese, and asked Toshi Ichiyanagi to write the
translated versions on sheets of paper hung on the wall.
Ono thus ensured that the texts themselves became the
viewers main focus, rather than her handwriting, which
she considered to be emotional. The textsdirections
for creating works like those included in her 1961 AG
Gallery show, but here unaccompanied by physical realizationsrepresent Onos full embrace of a Conceptual
art practice, one that treated ideas themselves as works
of art, independent of their tangible manifestation.

1. Yoshiaki To no, Chansu


opereshon (Guzen so sa) [Chance
operation], Kamera geijutsu [Camera
art] 9, no. 7 (July 1962): 126 29.
Translation provided by Midori
Yoshimoto.
2. Although A Piece for Chairs
#1 #10 was not featured in her
Carnegie Recital Hall concert, Ono
performed The Chair #1 in New York
on January 8, 1962, at a benefit for
the publication An Anthology held at
the Living Theatre.
3. This work was not listed in
the program. Ono shared an interest
in the audience-performer relationship with La Monte Young, whose
Composition 1960 #6 requires the
performers to look at and listen to the
audience members as if they were
the performers. Ono has recently
retitled the work.

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23. Invitation to Works of Yoko Ono. 1962.
Offset and letterpress with beansprout, 18 34 x 4 12" (47.6 x 11.4 cm)

1962 1964

24. AOSTo David Tudor. 1961.


Performed in Works of Yoko Ono. Photograph: Yasuhiro Yoshioka

86

87

WORKS OF YOKO ONO

26. The Pulse. 1962. Performed in Works of Yoko Ono.


Performers (left to right): unknown, Yoriaki Matsudaira, Toshiro Mayuzumi,
Yji Takahashi, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Kenji Kobayashi, and
Kuniharu Akiyama. Photograph: Akio Nonaka

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25. Lighting Piece. 1955.
Performed in Works of Yoko Ono. Performer: Yoko Ono.
Photograph: Yasuhiro Yoshioka

27. Audience Piece to La Monte. 1962. Performed in Works of Yoko Ono.


Performers (left to right): Yoko Ono, Kenji Kobayashi, Nobuaki Kojima,
Kazutada Tsubouchi, Tatsumi Yoshino, Tatsumi Hijikata, Santaro Tanabe, unknown,
and unknown. Photograph: Yasuhiro Yoshioka

1962 1964

88

89

WORKS OF YOKO ONO

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28. Untitled (Painting to See the Sky). 1962. From Instructions for Paintings.
1962. Ink on paper, 9 1316 x 14 1516" (25 x 38 cm)

29. Smoke Painting. 1961/1962. From Instructions for Paintings.


1962. Ink on paper, 9 1316 x 14 1516" (25 x 38 cm)

1962 1964

90

91

WORKS OF YOKO ONO

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30. Painting in Three Stanzas. 1961/1962. From Instructions for Paintings.


1962. Ink on paper, 9 1316 x 14 1516" (25 x 38 cm)

31. Painting to Hammer a Nail. 1961/1962. From Instructions for Paintings.


1962. Ink on paper, 9 1316 x 14 1516" (25 x 38 cm)

1962 1964

92

93

TOUCH PIECE

TOUCH PIECE
1964

Touch Piece, and the related works Touch Poem for


Group of People and Touch Poem, began as private
acts in the late 1950s: When I first thought of the idea,
Ono said, I couldnt sleep at night because it was so
beautiful. I was going everywhere saying to people, Did
you realize how beautiful it is to touch each other? 1 In
February 1964, Ono held a performance of Touch Piece
at the Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo. One attendee, Japanese
filmmaker Takahiko iimura, recalled that the participants
formed a circle on the gallery floor and, after overcoming initial shyness, We all awakened our sensations by
touching, which was rarely an issue in the art world. 2
In July of the same year, Ono gathered approximately fifty people at the Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto to
participate in the event Evening till Dawn, which, in texts
written later, Ono describes as a variation of Touch Piece.
Ono had received rare permission from the high monk
to use the temple and gardens overnight. Upon arriving
at the temple, visitors were given two cards: one read
silence and the other touch. Ono remembered that it
was a beautiful full moon night and people talked about
moonburn, moonbath, and about touching the sky. In the
morning, they took baths three at a time in a huge stone
basin and cleaned the temple grounds together prior to
departing.3
Touch Piece was performed at least twice
in London in 1966, first during the Destruction in Art
Symposium in September, and then at the launch party
for an underground newspaper, the International Times,
the following month. According to one account, at the
second event the room suddenly went dark in the middle
of a performance by the British rock band Soft Machine.
Onos voice was then heard through the loudspeaker,
instructing the audience to touch the person next to
you. The audience complied, thus setting off a flurry of
embarrassed giggles. 4

1. Yoko Ono, in Ono, John


Lennon, Jamie Mandelkau, and
William Bloom, Interview Piece:
Yoko Ono & Grapefruit, International
Times 1, no. 110 (August 1226,
1971): 15. This volume, p. 225.
2. Takahiko iimura, quoted in Lily
Faust, Grapefruit: Yoko Ono in 1964,
at ISE Cultural Foundation, May
2004, online at http://www.thenewyorkartworld.com/pastissue/mayeditorial2004.html#review08.
3. Ono, To the Wesleyan
People, insert in Judson Gallery
Presents The Stone by Anthony Cox,
Sound Forms by Michael Mason, Eye
Bags by Yoko Ono, Film Message by
Jeff Perkins, Air: Jon Hendricks (New
York: Judson Gallery, 1966). This volume, p. 146.
4. Julian Palacios, Lost in the
Woods: Syd Barrett and the Pink
Floyd (London: Boxtree, 1998), p. 87.

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32. Touch Poem for Group of People. 1963.
Published in Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, 1964), n.p.
Offset, page 5 716 x 5 716" (13.8 x 13.8 cm)

1962 1964

94

95

MORNING PIECE

MORNING PIECE
1964

In the mid-1960s, Ono presented the work commonly


known as Morning Piece in various forms and under
various titles in Tokyo and New York. She first enacted
the work, under the name 9 A.M. to 11 A.M., on the roof
of Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo on May 24, 1964. During the
event, she sold shards of broken milk bottles, informing
buyers (pl. 33), You can see the sky through it. Also,
wear gloves when you handle so you will not hurt your
fingers. A typewritten piece of paper accompanied each
shard, specifying a future date and a particular period
of the morning (until sunrise, after sunrise, or all
morning). Participants included leading artists such as
Miyori Hayashi, Nam June Paik, Shigeko Kubota, Mieko
(Chieko) Shiomi, and Yasunao Tone, and each paid
between ten and one thousand yen for a shard representing his or her chosen morning. Hayashi, for example, bought one that stated January 1, 1972 all morning, for the price of ten yen.1 Later that summer, Ono,
assisted by Anthony Cox, enacted the piece under a tree
on the Tama riverbank in Tokyo. The action was filmed
for Chiaki Naganos short documentary Aru wakamonotachi (Some young people), which was broadcast on
Japanese television in October.
In September 1965, Ono performed the work
under the title Morning Piece (1964) to George Maciunas
(pls. 3740) on the roof of her Christopher Street apartment building in New York. Here, she sold pieces of seaworn glassgathered from a beach near Allan Kaprows
Long Island homearranged on a grid labeled with past
and future mornings. A sign with the phrase ENTER:
SKY hung on the roof door adjacent to the performance
area. The following year, in September, as part of the
fourth edition of Charlotte Moormans Annual New York
Avant Garde Festival, the gridded board was laid on the
grass in Central Park, in another presentation of Morning
Piece (which may have been titled Sunrise Event here,
as that title appears in the festival program and Morning
Piece does not). Ono didnt attend this iteration, as she
was in London participating in the Destruction in Art
Symposium (pl. 65, pp. 15657).

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1. Illustrated in Reiko Tomii,
Yoko Ono: Tokyo/1964, X-Tra 7, no.
2 (Winter 2004); available at http://xtraonline.org/article/yoko-onotokyo1964/.

33. English notice for Morning Piece.


1964. Ink on paper, 11 58 x 8 14" (29.5 x 21 cm)

1962 1964

96

97

MORNING PIECE

34. Still from the documentary film Aru wakamono-tachi


(Some young people, 1964), directed by Chiaki Nagano, showing Yoko Ono
selling mornings on the Tama riverbank, Tokyo. At right: Anthony Cox

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35. Sign used in Morning Piece. 1964.
Ink on paper, 10 x 14 316" (25.4 x 36 cm)

36. Morning Piece. 1964.


Glass, paper, ink, and glue, dimensions vary

1962 1964

98

99

MORNING PIECE

37. Announcement for Morning Piece (1964)


to George Maciunas. 1965. Designed by George Maciunas.
Offset, sheet 8 916 x 11" (21.8 x 27.9 cm)

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38. Morning Piece (1964) to George Maciunas.


September 1965. Performed on the roof of Yoko Onos apartment building
at 87 Christopher Street, New York. Photograph: Peter Moore

39 and 40. Morning Piece (1964) to George Maciunas.


September 1965. Performed on the roof of Yoko Onos apartment building
at 87 Christopher Street, New York. Photographs: Peter Moore

1962 1964

100

101

GRAPEFRUIT

GRAPEFRUIT
1964

Ono self-published Grapefruit (pl. 42) in Tokyo in 1964.


The name of her imprint, Wunternaum Press, was a play
on the German word Wunderbaum, meaning miracle
tree. I wanted to publish my work from another world,
Ono later explained.1 She chose July 4, United States
Independence Day, as the publication date, symbolically
associating the book with freedom.
Grapefruit contains over 150 instructions divided
into five sections: Music, Painting, Event, Poetry,
and Object. Each instruction is dated with a year
between 1953 and 1964, and often a season or month.
Some instructions appear in multiple forms. For instance,
there are two versions of the instruction for Secret
Piece (1953; pl. 43), the earliest work represented in
Grapefruit. For the initial instruction, Ono drew a musical staff with one bass note, to be held for an extended
duration. The treble clef has an octave symbol over it,
indicating that the music should be played one octave
higher, though the clef itself has no musical notes on it.
Over the symbols dotted line, Ono handwrote the performance direction with the accompaniment of the birds
singing at dawn. Above this first version of the instruction
for Secret Piece is a later, strictly text-based incarnation:
Decide on one note that you want to play. Play it with
the following accompaniment: The woods from 5 a.m. to
8 a.m. in summer.
Printed in an edition of five hundred copies on
inexpensive paper and in a compact square format,
Grapefruit was intended for distribution to a general audience. In the summer of 1964, during the Olympic Games,
Ono sold the book on the streets of Tokyo (pl. 21; about
a third of the instructions in the first edition were written
in Japanese). George Maciunas, who had initially hoped
to publish Onos collected works as a Fluxus edition, ultimately assisted Onos efforts, advertising Grapefruit in
his various Fluxus publications. An expanded version of
the book was published by Simon and Schuster in 1970,
and several times since then. It has also been translated
into many languages.

1. Yoko Ono, correspondence


with Thomas Kellein, August 5, 2008,
quoted in Thomas Kellein, Coughing
Is a Form of Love: A Portrait of the Artist
as a Young Philosopher, in Thomas
Kellein, ed., Yoko Ono: Between the
Sky and My Head (Cologne: Verlag
der Buchhandlung Walther Ko nig,
2008), p. 147.

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41. Birth Announcement and Announcement for Grapefruit. 1963.
Five offset sheets mailed in envelope.
Clockwise, from bottom left: two envelopes, each approx.
3 14 x 7 1516" (8.3 x 20.2 cm); sheet 14 316 x 9 1516" (36 x 25.3 cm);
sheet 9 116 x 2 516" (23 x 5.9 cm); sheet 9 116 x 2 516" (23 x 5.9 cm);
sheet 9 116 x 2 316" (23 x 5.6 cm); sheet 9 116 x 2 1116" (23 x 6.8 cm)

1962 1964

102

103

GRAPEFRUIT

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42. Grapefruit. 1964.


Artists book, offset, overall (closed) 5 716 x 5 716 x 1 14" (13.8 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm).
Publisher: Wunternaum Press (the artist), Tokyo. Edition: 500

43. Secret Piece, two versions. Published in Grapefruit (1964), n.p.


Offset, page 5 716 x 5 716" (13.8 x 13.8 cm)

1962 1964

104

105

GRAPEFRUIT

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44. Central Park Pond Piece.


Published in Grapefruit (1964), n.p. Offset, page 5 716 x 5 716" (13.8 x 13.8 cm)

45. Collecting Piece II and Collecting Piece III.


Published in Grapefruit (1964), n.p. Offset, page 5 716 x 5 716" (13.8 x 13.8 cm)

1962 1964

106

107

CUT PIECE

CUT PIECE
1964

Ono performed Cut Piece twice in Japan: first at the


Yamaichi Hall in Kyoto, in July 1964, and then in her Yoko
Ono Farewell Concert: Strip-Tease Show at the Sogetsu
Art Center, in August 1964 (pl. 46). In both versions (as in
those that followed), the artist, wearing her best suit, 1
knelt silently at the center of the stage and placed a pair
of tailors scissors in front of her. At her invitation, the
audience members came up and cut off portions of her
clothing, after which they exited the stage with the scraps
of fabric.
Ono publicly performed Cut Piece only once in
New Yorkin the concert New Works of Yoko Ono, held
at the Carnegie Recital Hall in March 1965 (pls. 4749).2
The following year, in London, she performed the work
at least three times: twice during the Destruction in Art
Symposium at the Africa Centre (pp. 15657), receiving
sensational reviews in the press, and again, in a more
private setting, at the Indica Gallery, shortly before her
exhibition there (pp. 15863).
Cut Piece appeared for the first time in Onos
1964 artists book, Grapefruit (pp. 100 105), as an
instruction dated summer 1962: Cut out any portion of a
painting you like or a piece of paper and throw it off a high
building. In early 1966, as part of a concert and exhibition proposal that was never realized, Ono typed two
instructions titled Cut Piece. The first instruction, which
described quite faithfully the past performances of the
work, indicated that the piece ends at the performers
option. In the second instruction, Onoreplacing the
solo performer with a groupwrote that the audience
may cut each others clothing and may cut as long as
they want.
In September 2003, at the Thea tre le Ranelagh in
Paris, Ono performed Cut Piece for the first time in almost
four decades. Here, the work took on a new meaning.
At a time of growing international conflict, the artist offered
it as a metaphor for peace, telling the audience, in a
text printed in the program and reprinted in this volume
(p. 117), to come and cut a piece of my clothing wherever
you like the size of less than a postcard, and send it to the
one you love.

1. Yoko Ono, quoted in Kevin


Concannon, Yoko Onos Cut
Piece: From Text to Performance
and Back Again, PAJ: A Journal
of Performance and Art 30, no. 3
(September 2008): 89.
2. With Onos approval, however, others have performed the work
in New York (as well as elsewhere).
For instance, it was performed in
1966 by two men in Central Park
during the fourth edition of Charlotte
Moormans Annual New York Avant
Garde Festival, and on numerous
other occasions by Moorman herself.

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46. Kyokumoku wa sutorippu [The number is strip] in Shkan taish


[Weekly masses]. September 10, 1964. Photograph showing Yoko Ono
performing Cut Piece (1964) in Yoko Ono Farewell Concert: Strip-Tease Show,
Sgetsu Art Center, August 11, 1964. Photograph: Minoru Hirata

1962 1964

108

109

CUT PIECE

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47 and 48. Cut Piece. 1964.
Performed in New Works of Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall,
New York, March 21, 1965. Performer: Yoko Ono.
Photographs: Peter Moore

49. Cut Piece. 1964. Performed in New Works of Yoko Ono,


Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, March 21, 1965.
Performer: Yoko Ono. Photograph: Minoru Niizuma

1962 1964

110

111

BAG PIECE

BAG PIECE
1964

Ono performed Bag Piece publicly for the first time at


Kyotos Yamaichi Hall in July 1964, in the same concert
in which she premiered Cut Piece.1 (She performed both
works at Tokyos Sogetsu Art Center the following month,
in a program titled Yoko Ono Farewell Concert: StripTease Show [pls. 50, 51].) A few years later, she provided
this description of Bag Piece:
After the curtain has gone up (or if there is no
curtain, at a designated time after the announcer
announced the piece), two performers walk onto
the stage. Performers may be two males, two
females, or a mixed couple. Performers carry a bag
large enough for both to get inside of. Bag made
of non-transparent material. Both performers get
inside of bag. Both remove all clothing while inside
of bag. Both put all clothing back on. They come
out of bag. They exit with bag from stage.2
In New York, Bag Piece was performed in New Works
of Yoko Ono at the Carnegie Recital Hall in March
1965 (pl. 52) and in the Perpetual Fluxfest festival at
Cinematheque (in the East End Theater) in June 1965
(pl. 53). In 1966, Ono contributed Bag Piece to a collaborative installation titled The Stone (pp. 13843), which
was shown first at the Judson Gallery, in March, and
then at the Paradox restaurant, from July to August. For
this new performance of Bag Piece, people were invited
to enter several bags that had been placed in a small
structure within the venue. The exhibition publication
included Onos Ad for Bagwear (pls. 6264), a group
of drawings proposing the use of these large bags in
everyday life by people who suffer from overexposure.
Figures are shown receiving guests, taking a nap, and
even attending a business conference while completely
enclosed in the bags. One drawn spectator, observing
someone in bagwear, notes, She has style.
In December 1967, at the fourth Exprmntl film
festival in Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium, Ono performed
Bag Piece by sitting in a bag for eight hours in the lobby
of the citys casino (the events main venue). Four signs
reading Yoko Ono is not here, two in French and two
in English, were placed around the bag. In the following years, Ono performed Bag Piece on multiple occasions internationally.

1. Yoko Ono had used bags previously in her work, including in her
1961 Carnegie Recital Hall Concert
(pp. 6869).
2. Ono, Strip Tease Show
(1966), in Jon Hendricks, Anthology:
Writings by Yoko Ono, Alexandra
Munroe and Hendricks, eds., Yes
Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society
and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), p. 276.

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50 and 51. Bag Piece. 1964.


Performed in Yoko Ono Farewell Concert: Strip-Tease Show,
Sgetsu Art Center, Tokyo, August 11, 1964.
Performers: Yoko Ono and Anthony Cox. Photographs: Yasuhiro Yoshioka

1962 1964

112

113

BAG PIECE

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52. Bag Piece. 1964. Performed in


New Works of Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, March 21, 1965.
Performer: Yoko Ono. Photograph: Peter Moore

53. Bag Piece. 1964. Performed in Perpetual Fluxfest,


Cinematheque, New York, June 27, 1965. Performer: Yoko Ono.
Photograph: George Maciunas

19621964

WORDS OF A FABRICATOR

I feel a strong nostalgia for the first man in the human history
who lied. How did he feel when he said he saw God, eternity,
and heaven, for instance? Did he intend to deceive others while
trembling from his own insecurity? Did he try to make the world
of lies into a real world by deceiving others? Or did he believe
that his fictional world actually existed somewhere in the
universe? Whatever his feelings were, I think its interesting
that he could not keep his lies to himself, and shared them
with others.
Stylization is a materialization of the human desire to free
oneself from the world of irrational rationality, hoping that
he could extricate himself from it by immersing oneself into a
fictional world. Medieval thoughts interest me for that reason. Architecture, clothing, and various social conventions are
attempts to make a detour to death by creating excessive dramas/
illusions which are far from the naked reality. At its bottom
lies an endless pessimism that nothing but a fictional order can
rescue us.
But we now find ourselves in a healthy era, in which fiction
is somewhat abhored. In fact, we have contempt for any fictional
act in the realm of consciousness. Even with ones own set of
rules, such as ones belief, man cannot be satisfied without
bringing the natural order into its structure, thereby making
it appear as though his set of rules are equally real and valid
as the law of nature. It is hard not to notice the farce, that
instead of legitimizing mans belief system, nature suddenly
mutates into fiction as it is planted artificially into the
frame work of the man-made order. Failing in the attempt of making the fabricated order appear equally real as nature, the contemporary man has now gone into a totally opposite direction of
placing men in equal position to objects and plants. This is an
attempt to raise mens stature to that of nature, by regarding
natures chance operational characteristic as superior to mens
own fictional order, and succuming to and adopting the chance
operation as mens own. It is the state of mind of wanting to
become a weed and join the heartbeat of the universe by entering
a state of innocence/nothingness and blowing in a gentle wind.
This direction stems from ones optimism of thinking that as
long as one discards ones consciousness, and leaves oneself in
the hands of chance operation, one could immedidately turn into
being a weed. This line of thought rubs me the wrong way.
It is too simplistic to think that one can reach the world of
transcendence as long as we participate in the act of Gyo and
sweat. Is a human body worthy of such trust? We are talking
about a body of betrayer/letranger to the natural world, who
carries the misfortune of being capable of even controlling the
length of his life by will. Were talking about, us, the contemporary men who are soaked to the bones with a fabricator called
consciousness.

114

115

YOKO'S VOICE

We, the betrayer, are so invaded by the falsehood of consciousness we cannot even become chance operational by using
such loose method as leaving it to chance operation. Instead, if
we assign the most fictional rules, only then, we may possibly
transcend our consciousness. My current interest is in such a
world of fictional rules: the laws of the fabricator.
The assumption and realization of a perfect circle and a perfect line which we have not encountered except in our conceptual
world. The nonsense act of counting the number of chimneys all
over the world, and the repetition of such acts. To assign such
set of rules to myself.
I can call this a ritual to rationalize the irrationality in us,
humans. It may have something in common with the act of medieval stylization. Except here, it is a ritual which cannot be
shared in the physical world. Or shall we say, that it is a
ritual without the dignity of being real. A ritual even I could
only acknowledge its existence as fiction/fabrication. The
strange result of it is that, it becomes a concrete matter/
substance, only when one tries to destroy it, as, otherwise, it
cannot escape from being imaginary.
A conceptual reality becomes a concrete reality only when it
meets the enactment of destructive forces in the accidental circumstances. The rules of this conceptual world I assign myself
to, differs in its nuance from the world of a certain Satori/
enlightenment derived by one trying to confuse ones self image
with that of a plant and not feel any conflict, more over,
feeling most satisfied that one has joined the supeior world
of chance operation by becoming like a weed.
I am still groping in the world of stickiness.
My attempt is not as serious as handing a knife to someone and
trying to make my transcendence by asking the assistance of the
force other than my own. It is nothing more than a obsessive act
of the posessed, attempting to make ones own fiction a reality
by letting others cut off the consistent romanticism inevitable
to fiction.
Anyhow, I cannot stand the fact that everything is the accumulation of distortion, owing to ones slanted view. I want
the truth. I want to feel the truth by any possible means.
I want some one or something to let me feel it. I can neither
trust the plant-likeness of my body or the manipulation of
my consciousness. I know no other way but to present the structure of a drama which assumes fiction as fiction, that is,
as fabricated truth.

(Words of a fabricator)

Yoko Ono
SAC Journal no. 24, May 1962 issue, Tokyo
Translated by the artist, August 2627, 1999

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19621964

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117

YOKO'S VOICE

OF WORDS OF A FABRICATOR
DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 1:37AM
FROM: YOKO ONO

Jon, in WORDS OF A FABRICATOR, I am hitting Chance Operation as


phony. Music Concrete had adopted natural sounds in its music.
But Cage had gone even further and created soundless music
except for the sound of nature in the limited time he had designated. After that, what could he do? Change the timing? Like his
friend Marcel, he could have told the world that he would now
just be a chess player. But he went on to create music pieces
with musical notes operated only by chance. Nature has incredible complex forms. Music made by man had too, in the works of
three Bs, Mozart and twelve tone composers. Chance Operation
does not give. It only takes in the form of peoples devout
attention. There is no creative fabrication (I dare to use that
word!) of the human mind. No plan except to rely on chance,
created by the performers.
In the effort of composing avant-garde music, the musical experience La Monte Young gives is totally superb considering what
chance operational music can give which is ultimately nothing.
La Monte Young gives something to chew on.
Cage however, experiences incredible popularity which makes most
critics avoid being vocal. People who always felt that classical
music was intimidating to them, must love Cages music, which
destroys the very fabric of music itself. There may have been
some people in the audience who realized that the King wore no
clothes. In fact Cage himself, might have noticed it and laughed
it off as lifes eternal farce. I loved Cage as a friend. But
more over, I miss the human mind expressed in intricate weaving
of sounds by intention and not by chance.

CUT PIECE

Following the political changes through the year after 9/11,


I felt terribly vulnerable like the most delicate wind could
bring me tears.
It was as though everything I believed in was rapidly melting
away, while I continued walking still carrying my beliefs.
The front page of the papers and the TV news were feeding us
what they wanted to - assaulting our senses. Men without faces
were at work. Force and intimidation were in the air. People
were silenced.
I always thought I wanted to live forever, that I was one person
who was not scared of doing so. But would I want to live surrounded by this world as we know now?
Some people went to Palestine to act as human shields.
That really touched me.
If all of us stood to become human shields instead of machine
gunning each other...
My immediate thought was to join them. I almost did, and didnt.
Later, the world heard of the death of Rachel Corrie.
She made her stand for all of us.
Cut Piece is my hope for World Peace.
Because today is a very special day for me. Like every day.
And Im determined to cherish every moment.
When I first performed this work, in 1964, I did it with some
anger and turbulence in my heart.
This time I do it with love for you, for me, and for the world.
Come and cut a piece of my clothing wherever you like the size
of less than a postcard, and send it to the one you love.
Ill see you.
y.o. 8/1/03
My body is the scar of my mind
y.o. 64

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1962
1962
1964

118

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SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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ko no zenei sh

Donald Richie, Tsumazuita saizensen: Ono Yo


Yo
sho
o

[Stumbling front line: Yoko Onos avant-garde show], Geijutsu shinch


shincho
o
[New trends in art] 13, no. 7. (July 1962): 6061.

1962
1962
1964

120

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SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Toshi Ichiyanagi. Saizenei no koe: Donarudo Richi


Richi e no hanron
[Voice of the most avant-garde: Objection to Donald Richie],
Geijutsu shincho
shinch
o [New trends in art] 13, no. 8. (August 1962): 13839.

1962
1962
1964

122

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SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

five hundred yen for admission. Having been deceived into paying such a
pricey admission, they stayed until the end, trying to get the most of
their money.
Donald Richie, Stumbling Front Line: Yoko Onos Avant-Garde Show,
Geijutsu shincho
shinch
o, July 1962. Translation of article on
pp. 11819 of this volume.

The So
S
ogetsu Art Center has become known for presenting the finest of
Japanese avant-garde art, but it hardly lives up to that reputation.
The works it shows are actually mostly old-fashioned. Yoko Onos program held there the other day epitomizes this.
She must be thinking of herself as modern merely for two factors: she
has just returned from New York, and the pieces she presented appeared
to be avant-garde. People were seated in a circle. She would strike
a match to light a fire. She would bang on the piano. Just these simple
gestures would fill up a couple of hours.
Following one after another were works that seemed to have no point,
except for the fact that performers were voluntary participants
(there was no rehearsal because of this) and the fact that the pieces
focused on trivial matters. The concert offered nothing other than
these two selling pointsthe performers voluntary participation and
works triviality.
Of course, this voluntary participation was nothing remarkable. Elites
of the Japanese avant-garde [who performed in the concert] such as

Toshiro
Toshir
o Mayuzumi, Kenji Kobayashi, Yuji Takahashi, Toshi Ichiyanagi,
Kuniharu Akiyama, Yoshiaki To
T
ono, Mitsuo Kano
Kan
o, and Masunobu Yoshimura
were all busy and restless, their schedules packed. The point of this
concert was that these busy men managed to participate. We often hear
of voluntary participation in New York, too, but rarely hear of such
voluntary participation being done by amateurs. Usually, voluntary
participation is done by professional actors. It is fundamentally different in its concept and attitude from this instance, where amateurs
stood onstage without any rehearsal or preparation.

Ono incorporated speeches of Hitler at Nuremberg and [the general]


j
Hideki To
To
o during the war. It was such a tacky idea. It was cheap nonsense. No one clapped, even after it lasted over twenty minutes. She
must have been outraged by the reaction and repeated it again. I just
could not get it. It was a forceful imposition of uninteresting works.
The evening went on. (If I was not assigned to write this review,
I would have gone home much sooner.) Her intentions grew more obvious.
She began taking her frustration out onto the audience. Having been
put through what she calls works until the end, the audience
was exhausted and left So
S
ogetsu dissatisfied.
It is not wrong for an artist to incite the audience. In a sense, a real
artist is always expected to do so. But there are methods for doing
it. If Ono wants to succeed in this, she should take a much more clever
method. Or choose a more original way. At the very least, she should
not be old-fashioned.
Of course, there was something wrong with the audience tonight. I was
amazed by their stupid desire for something new. I dont know what else
to say. They were glued to their seats, as immobile as cows, and willingly accepted relentless disrespect from the stage. They did not boo
or whistle. Their attitude was nothing but nothing. Many people left
dissatisfied, but no one complained. If I were pressed to explain,
Id say that they appeared to be ashamed of themselves for not speaking
up before going home.
Ms. Ono, you might as well handle such a dull audience lightly by playing tricks on them. But at the same time, you should try to become an
original artist by no longer stealing other peoples ideas.
Around thirty years ago, Francis Picabia and Eric Satie showed brilliant magic. They sold many tickets for an original ballet they called
Relche (meaning sold out). On the day of the performance, ticket
holders came to the theater only to find the auditorium closed and
dark. All the doors inside were closed and displayed fliers saying,
RELCHE. Ms. Ono, couldnt you do something as witty as this?

Anyway, Ono did not demonstrate any originality. All her ideas are borrowed from people in New York, particularly John Cage. For example,
the idea for the piece in which she sat silently in front of the piano
for the first five minutes and banged on the keys for the next five was
clearly stolen from Cage. The piano performance by Takahashi, which
juxtaposed actions of the actors onstage, also derived from Cage.
What Ono does is unoriginal. I found far more originality in a dance
by two ballet dancers, Tatsumi Hijikata and Miki Wakamatsu.
Unfortunately, the remaining program displayed creativity on the level
of an elementary-school sports day.In other words, it was an amateur
performance. In this sense, the concert exposed the very nature of
Japanese. Japanese seems to believe that great and important works
are those which take time, like this one, which took forever, involving
long breaksthis little play went on and on. Ono is a good example of
someone who tries to make works seem significant solely by making
them take a very long time. Something that could have been presented
in a few minutes was prolonged to twenty minutes just so that it would
seem important.
Her attitude toward the audience was off-track. She constantly
insults the intelligence of her audience members. She must think that
they have no mental capabilities at all. Perhaps she is right. That
might be so. Because the latest trend is that audiences enjoy being
disrespected. But this is due to nothing other than the fact that they
disrespect themselves.

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Sensible audience members should have left their seats after fifteen
minutes tonight, but they showed no signs of leaving early. I guess
that was particularly hard for them to do since they were made to pay

1962
1962
1964

Toshi Ichiyanagi, Voice of the Most Avant-Garde:


Objection to Donald Richie,
Geijutsu shincho
shinch
o, August 1962. Translation of article
on pp. 12021 of this volume.

Yoko Ono was criticized for stealing ideas in her work (Donald
, last months
Richie, The Stumbling Front Line, Geijutsu shinch
shincho
o
issue). This is, however, a simple mistake. It can be proven by
myself and others who performed her compositions that night, strongly
supporting Ono.
First, let me explain two of the pieces in question. The first piece,
A Piano Piece to See the Skies
Skies,
, which Ono played by herself, began
with the repetition of sounds inaudible to humans. It proceeded to
the repetition of sounds that reached the sky, and concluded with the
repetitive breathing that necessarily results from an energetic performance. Setting aside the discussion on the quality of the work, it
is clear that this three-part piece had nothing to do with John Cages
silent piano composition 4'33"
4'33".
. It was conceptually different. (Cage
considered every sound that was heard during the performance as music.)
It was also pointed out that her next composition, Pulse,
Pulse, employed

the same juxtaposing method [


[taiih
taiiho
o] that Cage used, though it did
not employ any such method at all. This can be confirmed by any of her

pieces performers, including [Toshir


[Toshiro
o] Mayuzumi, [Kuniharu] Akiyama,
[Yoriaki] Matsudaira, [Tatsuo] Minakawa, [Kenji] Kobayashi, and
[Yuji] Takahashi.
The other day, during a question-and-answer session after a talk he
gave, [Oliver] Messiaen said, If you dont know a language, you cant
understand its meaning. For example, since I dont know Japanese, I
dont understand it even as I listen to it. Though he said a simple
thing, I thought his way of thinking was so clear and so typically
Western. I wish that critics could understand that an artist has his or
her original language, and sometimes it cannot be understood by existing senses. This especially applies to Onos works, which have new
metaphysical rules. In such mediums as painting, music, poetry, and
action, Ono has created worlds of original language that are totally
separate from one another. This was considered unusual even among Onos
peers in New York. Morton Feldman, a composer of chance operation,
called Ono New Yorks enfant terrible, and even Cage treated her as
an exceptional talent. Ono influenced the people around her to varying degrees. So-called ideas spring from her one after another, and
she will calmly give one to this or that person, remaining equable even
when someone steals one. I know several people who were successful
with works that borrowed ideas from Ono. It is very ironic that she is
being treated as a person who stole someone elses ideas.
Onos notion that a work should not be communicated to the audience
but instead should have the audience look for it requires the audience
to engage, with highly acute senses, on a different level from that of
a chance-operation work. Although Onos paintings appear monochromatic
at a glance, there are such things as a hair with blood and a liquor
bottle hung on the backs of them. Many people say that the stage during Onos performance is too dark to discern anything that is going on
there, but she believes that spotlighting focal points to the audience
insults their intelligence. She would like viewers to have unique
experiences by feeling an atmosphere and a flow of air in the darkness, by lighting matches to see, or by walking and groping for performers. They would find that many things are going on in the darkness.
No element contained in such perfectly self-enclosed ideas can be found
in what they call Happenings in New York. Onos music uses an indeterminate method of oral expression, and its sound is based on a quietness created by severely suppressing the act of making a sound. Its
timing is what Ono calls discordant time, which uses time in a very
indeterminate, ambiguous way. To utilize discordant time means not
to try to make beautiful timings, but to treat time like a scrap, like

124

125

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

an objet
objet,
, and to use whatever is available. Ono insists that a work
is the artists private part and that the artist is a tough, mental
prostitute, and she acutely feels the need for such prostitution.
She says, I would be happiest and healthiest if I could be saved by
just watching a baseball game, but a baseball game makes me long for
something else. She says, I wouldnt feel satisfied with art that is
like sweets, meaning art that is made merely for entertaining senses,
that can be created even by a childs imagination. She talks about
her hunger for a substantial world in a paradoxical way: Even the
healthy honesty of Picasso and Pollock would not satisfy me. I need a
fictional world that has much more complicated settings. That is, the
kind of world where a chair can be transformed into something equivalent to humans.
Ono used to say that artists show their work out of weakness and that
this is their downfall. It was only a few years ago that she began
to show her work willingly. Until then, she rarely showed it to someone
unless it was absolutely necessary. She did not even tell most of her
friends when she was doing something. One can feel in her work a void
that embraces a conflict between her wondrous timidity and her uncompromising nature.
Touch Poem;
Poem; an instruction for a painting to be done by others; an
object to be embraced by others; Smoke Painting,
Painting, which acquires its
life by getting burned; and music that is accomplished by having
others destroy itshould I call these stylized methods for suicide?
Ono hated the kinetic art that was created by [Jean] Tinguely and
others and that was popular in Europe at the time. She condemned the
destruction it involved for not being a void and for demonstrating
arrogance by having a certain rhythm. Hence, she created many works
that were quieter and relied on almost imperceptible indeterminate
transformation and time. I am referring to a series of works that
concerned time, such as, Until waterdrops create a hole in a stone,
Until a canvas is covered by vines, and Until wind blows all the
seeds. This element of time applies to all works by Ono. In those days
in New York, nobody but Ono thought of such a thing. Among her friends,
she was called the only painter that they knew. The work that most
clearly revealed the character of her art was perhaps Painting to Shake
getsu Art Center. Ono
Hands,
Hands
, which was displayed in the lobby of the S
So
o
self-mockingly says that the only thing that remains to be done is
to go around and shake hands with people. But this painting, with its
long subtitle of Painting for those who cannot help putting on a diplomatic smile, elevated her thoughts into a much more refined realm,
and created a world of new beautiful, stylized rules. A hand comes out
from the canvas, and it will be shaken by numerous unknown hands in
unknown spaces.
Because her work does not have so-called Japonica elements,
Japanophiles in New York, who liked Japonica, disliked her. Ono was the
only Japanese artist who wasnt reviewed as a Japanese artist in newspaper articles, such as the one in the New York Times titled AvantGarde Music Reaches Carnegie. La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low discussed whether they should include her works in the American section or
in the Japanese section of an avant-garde magazine to be published in
Europe, the United States, and Japan. They asked, Which do you think
of yourself as? Yoko answered in her usual timid manner, I feel bad
for Japanese people if I am included as a representative of Japan in the
Japanese section, because there should be people who do various works
in Japan. Despite what she may think, there is almost nobody that does
such avant-garde work.
There have been many enthusiastic people among Onos audiences in New
getsu in Japan. In addition, she has received many inviYork and at S
So
o
tations to do exhibitions, concerts, events, and radio broadcasts
in Europe. In a society whose art-viewing eyes are like a wide-holed
strainer, only coarse art that does not sift through will survive. In
a world where one can easily be sued for stealing, efforts not to be
misunderstood become more important than doing adventurous things: I
wish for the critics reconsideration.

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127

1964 1966

Yoko Onos departure from Japan in the late summer of 1964 was documented
in the short film Aru wakamono-tachi (Some young people), directed by Chiaki
Nagano. Ono is seen walking up the stairs to the plane, waving and smiling; she
had just quietly revolutionized art in Japan, and was returning to the United States,
confident that she could continue with the radicalization of art that she had begun
there in 1960. On her return, her first activity was to introduce her friend Hiroshi
Teshigahara to New York City and translate for his presentation of his film Woman in
the Dunes at the second New York Film Festival, in September 1964. Teshigahara
had hosted her concert Works of Yoko Ono, at the Sgetsu Art Center, Tokyo, in
May 1962 (pp. 84 91), and her just-completed Yoko Ono Farewell Concert: StripTease Show, also at Sgetsu, in August 1964. The latter event featured works that
Ono planned to present in her March 1965 concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in New
York, including Cut Piece (pp. 1069), Bag Piece (pp. 11013), and Striptease for
Three (pl. 54; all 1964).
New York had changed in the two and a half years that Ono was away. Gone were
the adventurousness and the raw underground art scene to which she was so central. Pop Art had firmly established itself as the dominant movement, but nudging
in from around the edges was a new avant-garde, defined by postmodern dance,
films, Conceptualism, and Fluxus; advances in music, poetry, and theater; and,
especially, a political awakening.
Fluxus had returned to New York in the spring of 1964 with a series of events
around Canal Street. George Maciunasback from Europe, where he had been
living since late fall 1961organized a large Fluxus concert to be held at Carnegie
Recital Hall that summer. Titled Fluxus Symphony Orchestra in Fluxus Concert,
the event was the citys first grand introduction to Fluxus. Maciunas had developed
plans for the movement in New York in the summer and fall of 1961, and had been
greatly influenced by Onos ideas of participation, by her conceptualism, and by
the license she gave others to realize her works. This last quality became very
important in Fluxus, with Maciunas interpreting artists ideas to produce inexpensive unlimited Fluxus Editions of their works. Maciunas was also influenced by
Ono and La Monte Youngs Chambers Street Loft Series (pp. 4853). Fluxus had
emerged as a public phenomenon in Europe and Japan during Maciunass and
Onos absence from New York. Now, the movements iconoclastic yet humorous
character filled a void in the city.
Initially, while reestablishing herself in New York, Ono realized quiet postcard
events, in which the recipients were invited to draw circles, or to imagine. Then, for
her March 1965 Carnegie Recital Hall concert titled New Works of Yoko Ono, she
premiered in the U.S. the works that had radicalized Japan: Cut Piece, Bag Piece,
and Striptease for Three.1 Onos work challenges a public on various levels. For
instance, Cut Piece is about stripping away constrictions, traditions, prejudices
releasing the selfand it deals with sexuality, gender, and class. The piece embodies conflicts of cultural philosophiesEast/West, Buddhism/Christianity, female/
male, present/past, exposed/obscured, free/tied upas did the kiss between Ono
and her husband in Aru wakamono-tachi: a liberated Japanese woman kissing
a middle-class white American man was extraordinarily radical for the time. The

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54. Striptease for Three. 1964.
Performed in New Works of Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall,
New York, March 21, 1965. Photograph: Peter Moore

1964 1966

shock of this kiss and its message must have been seismic in Japan in 1964,
when the film was shown on national television. The act was clearly intentional on
Onos part, just as her performances of Cut Piece left no doubt of her desire to
free herself from cultural straitjackets. In Striptease for Three, three plain chairs are
placed in a row in the middle of the stage (pl. 54); the curtain rises and the chairs
stay set this way for a long time before the curtain falls. The piecea work of pure
conceptualismconcerns peoples expectations of sexuality and their prejudices.
Bag Piece involves obscurity and imagination, as well as the suggestion of eroticism; in a way, it is an inversion of Cut Piece.
For her contribution, in late June 1965, to the Perpetual Fluxfest concert at the
East End Theater in New York, Ono performed Bag Piece, with more erotically
suggestive movements, and enacted her Beat Piece with Nam June Paik, Shigeko
Kubota, Anthony Cox, and others. The score of the latter piece reads: Listen to a
heartbeat. A photograph of the work shows Ono and the group casually lying on
the stage bunched together seemingly like a heap of dead bodies. A week later,
also for Perpetual Fluxfest, Kubota performed Vagina Painting in the same theater.
Ono dedicated two works to Maciunas in 1965: Pieces Dedicated to George
Maciunus, The Phantom Architectcomprising written descriptions of conceptual
architecture, including buildings that incorporate the rain, wind, or sunlightand
Morning Piece (1964) to George Maciunas (pls. 3740), performed on three days
in September on the roof of her apartment building. The latter work involved selling past and future mornings and was first realized in Japan the previous year.
Also in 1965, Ono wrote a piece that seemed to objectify her conceptual art: Onos
Sales List (1965) was a register of various of her works along with prices. One of
the items on the list is a letter from Ono to Ivan Karp. Karp was then the director
of the Leo Castelli Gallery, the most powerful art gallery in New York at the time,
showing the works of Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, among
others. Onos letter is an indictment of the gallery system and of the commodification of art; Karps reply (also catalogued on Onos Sales List) was arrogant and
sexist, perfectly reflecting the institutional power structure that Ono stood against.
In September 1965, Maciunas held the second Fluxus concert at Carnegie Recital
Hall, titled Fluxorchestra at Carnegie Recital Hall. Ono performed two works: Sky
Piece to Jesus Christ (1965; pp. 13233) and Pieces for Orchestra to La Monte
Young (1962). Both pieces were ironic dedications to composers (Jesus Christ
being John Cage). Young was the conductor of the concert. Sky Piece involves
wrapping the orchestra musicians and their instruments with medical bandages
until they can no longer make sound, and then leading the musicians offstage.
Both works can be seen as declarations of independence from great but dominating male composers, who at different times attempted to exert their will over many
in the avant-garde. The pieces are manifestos of liberation.

128

1964 1966

129

Onos instructions were accompanied by images that Maciunas made for the
work. Maciunas printed two versions of the dance-festival pieceone in the aforementioned publication, and the other as an offprint on stiff, white stock (pl. 59),
which he cut up and packaged in clear plastic boxes as a Fluxus Edition. Once in
London, Ono made her own drawings for the work and advertised subscriptions
for the event. These drawings are reproduced in the editions of Onos artists book
Grapefruit (pp. 100105) published since 1970.
During the winter of 196566, Ono created a private piece titled Blue Room Event
in the oppressive New York apartment in which she was living. She wrote short
statements that served to invert perceptionThis is not here, This room gets as
wide as an ocean at the other end, Find other rooms which exist in this space
on the walls, windows, floor, and ceiling, and on a large armoire. Blue Room Event
was a way of transferring her state of mind outside the situationa conceptual
deliverance.
In January 1966, Ono did a talk and concert titled Avant Garde in Japan at the
Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. The program
included Breath Piece, Wind Piece, and Wall Piece. Ono described the first two
works in a letter she sent to John Cage later that year.2 For Breath Piece, she
explains, a large card with small lettering saying breathe, was passed three times
among the audience.3 Wind Piece instructs, Make a way for the wind, and was
first performed at the Sgetsu Art Center in 1962 with a huge electric fan. At
Wesleyan, the audience was asked to move their chairs a little and make a narrow aisle for the wind to pass through. No wind was created with special means.4
The final work, Wall Piece, consists of two versions. The score is as follows:
Wall Piece
First version for one or many
performers:
One or a number of performers
repeatedly knock his or their
head(s) against the wall(s) on
the stage or in the theatre or
auditorium or place of performance.
The piece ends when the performers
decide that it should end.
Second version for audience:

The four-page 3 newspaper eVenTs for the pRicE of $1 (issue seven of the
Fluxus newspaper, dated February 1, 1966) dedicates an entire page, designed by
Maciunas, to Onos Do It Yourself Fluxfest Presents Yoko Ono & Dance Co. Onos
work consists of instructions for pieces to be enacted, in the mind or perhaps in reality, that together constitute a dance festival. One, for instance, reads:

It is announced that the members


of the audience may knock their
heads against the wall(s) of the
auditorium or theatre or audience
area.

CUT AND SEND ADVISE ON TAKE OFF PANTS


TAKE OFF
YOUR PANTS
BEFORE
YOU FIGHT.
MAKE THIS
A RULE.

The audience should continue as


long as they want.5

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A few days after Ono returned from Wesleyan, feeling the audience didnt understand her radical conceptual art, she wrote a footnote to her lecture, titled To the
Wesleyan People (who attended the meeting), which is one of her clearest writings about her artwork and philosophy (pp. 14447).

1964 1966

During the winter of 196566, Ono made her first version of Film No. 4 (pp. 164
67), assisted by Anthony Cox and Jeff Perkins, and starring the moving buttocks of
Geoffrey and Bici Hendricks (later known as Nye Ffarrabas), Carolee Schneemann,
James Tenney, Ben Patterson, Philip Corner, and perhaps ten other friends and
family members. These films were included in Maciunass award-winning Fluxfilm
Anthology (1966), which additionally featured Onos films Match Piece (or No. 1)
a realization of her 1955 Lighting Piece (pl. 25)and Eyeblink.
During this same period, Ono collaborated with Cox, Perkins, Michael Mason, and
myself to create The Stone (pp. 13843), a participatory installation in the Judson
Gallery, a small space next to Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. A
structure was built inside the space, with a paper scrim on one wall for a rearscreen projection by Perkins; a slightly raised floating platform with markings by
Cox; speakers in each corner of the ceiling for sound forms by Mason; and a
scrim overhead, above which lights were mounted that were continually dimmed
and brightened. Ono had prepared questionnaires for visitors, who, after removing
their shoes, could enter the interior space, put bags over their bodies, undress if
they wished, and stay as long as they liked. Referred to as eyebags, the bags
were made of a material that could be seen through but not into, the work sharing
certain aspects with Onos earlier Bag Piece.
Ono and Cox prepared a publication for The Stone. Among the pages were Coxs
texts on his ideas for The Stone, Masons text on sound forms, Perkinss discussion
of his film message, and various works by Ono, such as Forms to Be Filled for
the Rental of the Eyebags: Questionnaire, Truth/False, A, B, or C; Ad for Bagwear
(pls. 6264); and Biography, which included her Statement:
Statement

130

1964 1966

131
NOTES
1.

2.

3.
4.
5.

6.

In addition, the concert included Clock Piece and


* Piece. The asterisk in this last title indicated a missing word, as explained in the concert program. The
word ended up being snakethe piece being Snake
Piece, in which the artist announces that she has
released two snakes into the concert hall where the
audience is sitting.
In the letter, dated December 15, 1966, Ono included
thirteen short instruction pieces, accompanied by
descriptions. She wrote the letter in response to a
request from Cage, who wanted to publish her works in
a book he was compiling titled Notations. He was meant
to choose nine of them. See Yoko Ono, 9 Concert
Pieces for John Cage, in Alexandra Munroe and Jon
Hendricks, eds., Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan
Society and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), pp. 27981.
Ibid., p. 281.
Ibid., p. 279.
The score for Wall Piece appears in Onos text piece
Strip Tease Show (dated early spring 1966), which
brings together a number of scores and which the
artist describes as a script consist[ing] of a series
of EVENTS that have been performed in Kyoto
1964, Tokyo 1964, Carnegie Recital Hall 1965, and
Wesleyan University 1966. Strip Tease Show is
reproduced in Munroe and Hendricks, Yes Yoko Ono,
pp. 27678.
Yoko Ono, Statement, in Judson Gallery Presents
The Stone by Anthony Cox, Sand Forms by Michael
Mason, Eye Bags by Yoko Ono, Film Messages by
Jeff Perkins, Air: Jon Hendricks (New York: Judson
Gallery, 1966), n.p.

People went on cutting the parts they do not like of


me finally there was only the stone remained of me
that was in me but they were still not satisfied and
wanted to know what its like in the stone.6
Inserted into the publication were To the Wesleyan People and Onos Sales List, as
well as mimeographed copies of reviews of The Stone from the Herald Tribune and
The Village Voice. It was sold in the gallery for one dollar. Grapefruit was also for
sale, for ten dollars. The Stone was quite popular, and that summer it was moved
to the Paradox restaurant in the East Village. In 1967, The Stone was included in
Onos Lisson Gallery exhibition in London.
Before the summer of 1966 had ended, Ono left for England, bringing with her the
plans and works she had been developing, including Onos Sales List, which became
a working blueprint for her Indica Gallery show that fall (pp. 15863), and Film No. 4,
which was expanded to over an hours length that winter. Most importantly, she
brought with her an extraordinary energy and vision, which, as had occurred in New
York, Tokyo, and again in New York, would ignite the art scene in London.

Jon Hendricks

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1964 1966

132

133

SKY PIECE TO JESUS CHRIST

SKY PIECE TO JESUS CHRIST


1965

Sky Piece to Jesus Christ was first performed on


September 25, 1965,1 in Fluxorchestra at Carnegie
Recital Hall, a multipart Fluxus concert conducted by La
Monte Young. One of Onos contributions to the concert,
Sky Piece to Jesus Christ started with the Fluxorchestra
performing music. They were soon interrupted by a second set of performers, including Ono, who began to wrap
white gauze around the musicians and their instruments
(pls. 55, 56).2 Eventually, unable to continue to play, the
orchestra members were led offstage, slowly exiting as
linked wrapped units.
The Jesus Christ in the title was an allusion to
John Cage, who was sometimes referred to as J. C. or
Jesus Christ in Onos milieu. It was perhaps a loving tribute, but was also an acknowledgment of Cages dominating position in the world of avant-garde music at the time.
Realizing ideas she had expressed three years earlier in
her text Words of a Fabricator, 3 and despite her close
friendship with Cage, Onos performance suggests a
declaration of freedom from the constraints she felt that
he and his concept of chance operations had imposed
on music and on her generation of artists. Cage had perhaps acknowledged Onos critique when he dedicated a
1962 composition, 0' 00", to the artist and her husband,
Toshi Ichiyanagi.4 He considered this piece, seemingly
a negation of time but a designation of it nonetheless,
to be a second version of his well-known work 4' 33", in
which a performer is invited to engage an instrument
but produce no sound, encouraging the audience members to become aware of the music of the world around
them. Onos reference to the sky in her work reads as a
metaphor for freedom and escape, and contrasts with
the restraints imposed on the musicians at the center of
the performance. The bandages evoke the possibility of
healing, and the emergence of artistic liberation from the
strictures of the past.

1. The work is also known as


Sky Piece for Jesus Christ.
2. Ono frequently used binding
and wrapping in her work. Performers
were tied up for her work AOSTo
David Tudor (1961; pl. 24), and in the
years after Sky Piece to Jesus Christ,
she presented Wrapping Piece for
London (1966) and Lion Wrapping
Event (1967; pp. 16869).
3. Yoko Ono, Words of A
Fabricator, SAC Journal, no. 24 (May
1962): n.p. This volume, pp. 11415;
Ono explains this text in an e-mail
printed on p. 116.
4. The 0' 00" score is available through Edition Peters, of
Leipzig, London, and Glendale,
N.Y. It is also reproduced in William
Fetterman, John Cage's Theatre
Pieces: Notations and Performances
(Amsterdam: Harwood Academic
Publishers, 1996), p. 85.

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55 and 56. Sky Piece to Jesus Christ.


Performed in Fluxorchestra at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, September 25, 1965.
Photographs: Fred W. McDarrah (top) and Peter Moore (bottom)

1964 1966

134

SKY MACHINE

135

SKY MACHINE
1961/1966

This stainless steel card dispenser, also titled Sky


Dispenser, bears the inscription along the bottom,
WORD MACHINE PIECE #1 SKY MACHINE BY
YOKO ONO 1961, REALIZED BY ANTHONY COX
1966. When a coin is inserted into it, the machine
releases a card with the word Sky written in the artists hand in pencil. As noted in the inscription, there was
a lapse between the conception and realization of the
work. Sky Machine developed out of ideas and instructions found in Grapefruit (1964; pp. 100105),1 but was
not produced until Onos return to New York.
The first month of 1966 was a period of intense
creative activity for Ono. Sky Machine was first shown in
a group exhibition and performance at Judson Memorial
Church on January 14, 1966, along with her Painting to
Shake Hands; both were performed by Jon Hendricks.
Just one day earlier, Ono had performed at Wesleyan
University, writing her now iconic follow-up piece, To
the Wesleyan People (who attended the meeting)
(pp. 14447), in the days immediately following. In this
piece, Ono writes, I would like to see the sky machine on
every corner of the street instead of the coke machine. We
need more skies than coke. Anthony Cox, her husband at
the time, called the piece a parody of mammoth industries, like Coca-Cola, which create mass-produced items
and present them to the consumer public as if they are
essential aspects of daily life.2 Ono flips this paradigm
on its head and sells something that cannot actually be
sold, owned, or possessed in any sense but is an elemental part of human existence: the sky. Furthermore,
through the act of selling bits of sky, Ono asks her audience to reflect on the indispensability of the skythe
air we breatheand embeds in the work her concerns
about the degradation of the environment. Ono encourages her viewer-participants to question their relationship
to the environment and to reflect on the pervasiveness of
consumer culture in the United States, a country where
seemingly anything and everything can be bought and
sold, even the air around us.
1. The work specifically relates
to the instruction Chewing Gum
Machine Piece (winter 1961). See
Midori Yoshimoto, Sky Machine,
in Alexandra Munroe and Jon
Hendricks, eds., Yes Yoko Ono (New
York: Japan Society and Harry N.
Abrams, 2000), p. 120.
2. Anthony Cox, Instructive
Auto-Destruction, Art and Artists 1,
no. 5 (August 1966): 19.

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57. Sky Machine. 1961/1966. Stainless steel dispenser,
stainless steel pedestal, and cards with graphite inscriptions,
51 316 x 16 18 x 16 18" (130 x 41 x 41 cm)

58. Cards for Sky Machine. 1961/1966.


Graphite on paper, each 1 x 1 34" (2.5 x 4.5 cm)

1964 1966

136

137

DO-IT-YOURSELF DANCE FESTIVALS

DO-IT-YOURSELF DANCE FESTIVALS


196667

On December 23 and 30, 1965, an advertisement with


the headline Fluxus Presents Yoko Ono and Dance
Company appeared among the music listings in The
Village Voice. The short notice announced a two-week
Do It Yourself Dance Festival that was to take place
in January 1966. Though little documentation exists of
the response to the ad or any resulting events, it anticipated two other dance festivals that Ono formulated
between 1966 and 1967. Without stages, choreography,
or frequently even locations, Onos dance festivals exist
largely as conceptual works, whose events are often to
be performed alone or in the minds of participants.
The second 1966 iteration of the project emerged
on February 1, in the Fluxus publication 3 newspaper eVenTs for the pRicE of $1. Designed by George
Maciunas, a full-page grid consisted of twenty squares
featuring Onos instructionssome linked to specific
days of the thirteen-day event, others not. These were
paired with found vintage imagery. The instruction for the
first three days was simply, BREATHE. Others listed
actual times and locations. On February 4, for instance,
performers were asked to HIDE AND WATCH THE
AUDIENCE COME IN, WAIT & LEAVE from 9 to 10 P.M.
in the Canal Street subway station.
A number of other such projects followed, including a series of instruction pieces that Ono produced for
the magazine Art and Artists after relocating to London
in September 1966. The following year, for her 13 Days
Do-It-Yourself Dance Festival, which ran from September
27 to October 9, she edited and rearranged the instructions that had been printed in 3 newspaper eVenTs for
the pRicE of $1 and made a new set of drawings. On the
printed sheet for the festival, Ono announced that interested parties could send her one pound in currency or a
pound worth of flowers and 13 stamps in order to receive
her dance instructions through the mail. She reproduced
these texts and drawings in the 1970 edition of Grapefruit
(1964; pp. 100105).

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59. Do It Yourself Fluxfest Presents Yoko Ono & Dance Co. 1966.
Designed and produced by George Maciunas. Uncut sheet for a Fluxus Edition.
Offset, 22 116 x 16 1516" (56 x 43 cm). The same image appears in Fluxus 3
newspaper eVenTs for the pRicE of $1 (Fluxus newspaper, no. 7 [February 1966]), p. 2

1964 1966

138

139

THE STONE

THE STONE
196667

The Stone was a collaborative environment first installed


at New Yorks Judson Gallerynewly directed by Jon
Hendricksin March 1966. Ono, Anthony Cox, Michael
Mason, Jeff Perkins, and Hendricks each contributed to
the multimedia presentation. On entering the gallery, visitors were asked to complete a six-page questionnaire by
Ono, which included a series of abstract questions. One
question, for example, asked whether teeth and bones
are solid form of cloud, and another whether coughing
is a form of love. According to Cox, the survey was supposed to put [the visitors] in a certain frame of mind.1
The installation featured a participatory version of
Onos Bag Piece (pp. 11013). She now called the piece
Eyebags, perhaps alluding to the fact that the large cloth
bags, like eyes, allowed people to see out (through the
weave of the material) but could not themselves be seen
into. After filling out the questionnaire, participants were
given one of the bags, asked to take off their shoes, and
finally allowed to enter a nine-square-foot chamber constructed from white paper and wood. They were informed
that they could take off their clothes inside the bags and
could stay inside as long as they wished. In the same
chamber, a rear screen projection of a film by Jeff Perkins
was shown on loopprojecting the phrases From here
and To here on alternate daysand four-track music
by Michael Mason, consisting of flute and guitar sounds,
played from a speaker in each corner. A drawing by Cox
was installed on the floor. The lights overhead continuously dimmed and brightened.
An accompanying catalogue included Onos text
piece Statement, which relates The Stone to her performance Cut Piece (1964; pp. 1069). She explains,
People went on cutting the parts they do not like of me
finally there was only the stone remained of me that was
in me but they were still not satisfied and wanted to know
what its like in the stone. 2 Whereas Cut Piece invited
viewers to remove Onos clothing, however, any disrobing that occurred in Eyebags took place in the private,
concealed environments of the bags.
The Stone was installed the following summer
at the Paradox, a macrobiotic restaurant where Ono
waitressed, and another version was presented in Onos
exhibition Half-A-Wind Show at Londons Lisson Gallery
in fall 1967.

1. Anthony Cox, quoted in


Rasa Gustaitis, Experiencing an
Experience Inside a Black Bag,
New York Herald Tribune, March 20,
1966.
2. Yoko Ono, Statement, in
Judson Gallery Presents The Stone
by Anthony Cox, Sound Forms by
Michael Mason, Eye Bags by Yoko
Ono, Film Message by Jeff Perkins,
Air: Jon Hendricks (New York: Judson
Gallery, 1966), n.p.

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60. Contact sheet showing Yoko Ono, Anthony Cox, and others in The Stone,
Judson Gallery, New York. 1966. Gelatin silver print, 9 1516 x 8 116" (25.3 x 20.5 cm).
Photographs: Charles S. Rotenberg

1964 1966

140

141

THE STONE

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61. Antechamber to The Stone, Judson Gallery, New York, March 1966.
Photograph: Peter Moore

62. Yoko Ono. Page from Ad for Bagwear,


in exhibition catalogue for The Stone. 1966. Offset, 11 x 8 12" (21.6 x 27.9 cm)

1964 1966

142

143

THE STONE

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63 and 64. Yoko Ono. Pages from Ad for Bagwear,


in exhibition catalogue for The Stone. 1966. Offset, each 11 x 8 12" (21.6 x 27.9 cm)

144

19641966

145

YOKO'S VOICE

I think it is possible to see a chair as it is. But when you


burn the chair, you suddenly realize that the chair in your head
did not burn or disappear.

FOR THE WESLEYAN PEOPLE

The world of construction seems to be the most tangible, and


therefore final. This made me nervous. I started to wonder if it
were really so.

YOKO ONO
1 WEST 100TH ST.
NEW YORK., 10025

Isnt a construction a beginning of a thing like a seed? Isnt


it a segment of a larger totality, like an elephants tail?
Isnt it something just about to emerge - not quite structured
never quite structured . . . like an unfinished church with a
sky ceiling? Therefore, the following works:

JANUARY 23, 1966

To The Wesleyan People (who attended the meeting.)


- a footnote to my lecture of January 13th, 1966

A venus made of plastic, except that her head has to be imagined.

When a violinist plays, which is incidental: the arm movement or


the bow sound?
Try arm movement only.

A paper ball and a marble book, except that the final version is
the fusion of these two objects which come into existance only
in your head.

If my music seems to require physical silence, that is because


it requires concentration to yourself - and this requires inner
silence which may lead to outer silence as well.

A marble sphere (actually existing) which, in your head, gradually becomes a sharp cone by the time it is extended to the far
end of the room.

I think of my music more as a practice (gyo) than a music.

A garden covered with thick marble instead of snow but like


snow, which is to be appreciated only when you uncover the marble coating.

The only sound that exists to me is the sound of the mind. My


works are only to induce music of the mind in people.
It is not possible to control a mind-time with a stopwatch or a
metronome. In the mind-world, things spread out and go beyond
time.

*********
I would like to see the sky machine on every corner of
the street instead of the coke machine. We need more skies
than coke.

There is a wind that never dies.


*************
My paintings, which are all instruction paintings (and meant for
others to do), came after collage & assemblage (1915) and happening (1905) came into the art world. Considering the nature
of my painting, any of the above three words or a new word can
be used instead of the word, painting. But I like the old word
painting because it immediately connects with wall painting
painting, and it is nice and funny.
Among my instruction paintings, my interest is mainly in painting to construct in your head. In your head, for instance, it
is possible for a straight line to exist - not as a segment of
a curve but as a straight line. Also, a line can be straight,
curved and something else at the same time. A dot can exist as a
1,2,3,4,5,6, dimentional object all at the same time or at various times in different combinations as you wish to perceive. The
movement of the molecule can be continuum and discontinuum at
the same time. It can be with colour and/or without. There is
no visual object that does not exist in comparison to or simultaneously with other objects, but these characteristics can be
eliminated if you wish. A sunset can go on for days. You can eat
up all the clouds in the sky. You can assemble a painting with
a person in the North Pole over a phone, like playing chess.
This painting method derives from as far back as the time of the
Second World War when we had no food to eat, and my brother and
I exchanged menus in the air.
There maybe a dream that two dream together, but there is no
chair that two see together.

***********

One thousand needles: imagine threading them with a straight


thread.

*******
Dance was once the way people communicated with God and godliness in people. Since when did dance become a pasted-face exhibitionism of dancers on the spotlighted stage? Can you not communicate if it is totally dark?
If people make it a habit to draw a somersault on every other
street as they commute to their office, take off their pants
before they fight, shake hands with strangers whenever they feel
like, give flowers or part of their clothing on streets, subways, elevator, toilet, etc., and if politicians go through a
tea house door (lowered, so people must bend very low to get
through) before they discuss anything and spend a day watching
the fountain water dance at the nearest park, the world business may slow down a little but we may have peace. To me this is
dance.
*****
All my works in the other fields have an Event bent so to
speak. People ask me why I call some works Event and others not.
They also ask me why I do not call my Events, Happenings.
Event, to me, is not an assimilation of all the other arts as
Happening seems to be, but an extrication from the various sensory perceptions. It is not a get togetherness as most happenings are, but a dealing with oneself. Also, it has no script as
happenings do, though it has something that starts it moving
the closest word for it may be a wish or hope.

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At

000000

146

19641966

At a small dinner party last week, we suddenly discovered that


our poet friend whom we admire very much was colour blind.
Barbara Moore said, That explains about his work. Usually peoples eyes are blocked by colour and they cant see the thing.

147

YOKO'S VOICE

Another Event was memorable for me was Fly, at Naiqua Gallery


in Tokyo. People were asked to come prepared to fly in their own
way. I did not attend.
***

After unblocking ones mind, by dispensing with visual, auditory, and kinetic perceptions, what will come out of us? Would
there be anything? I wonder. And my Events are mostly spent in
wonderment.
In Kyoto, at Nanzenji Temples the High Monk was kind to let me
use one of the temples and the gardens for my Event. It is a
temple with great history, and it was an unheard of honour for
the Monk to give permission for such a use, especially, to a
woman. The Event took place from evening till dawn. About fifty
people came with the knowledge that it will last till dawn. The
instruction was to watch the sky and to touch. Some of them
were just fast asleep until dawn. Some sat in the garden, some
on the wide corridor, which is like a verandah. It was a beautiful full moon night, and the moon was so bright, that the mountains and the trees, which usually looked black under the moonlight, began to show their green. People talked about moonburn,
moonbath, and about touching the sky. Two people, I noticed,
were whispering all about their life story to each other. Once
in a while, a restless person would come to me and ask if I
was alright. I thought that was very amusing, because it was a
very warm and peaceful July night, and there was no reason why
I should not be alright. Probably he was starting to feel something happening to him, something that he did not yet know how
to cope with, the only way out for him was to come to me and
ask if I was alright. I was a little nervous about people making cigarette holes on the national treasure floors and tatami,
from being high on the moonlight, since most of the people were
young modern Japanese and some French and Americans. But nothing
like that happened. When the morning breeze started to come in,
people quietly woke up their friends, and we took a bath, three
at a time, in a bath especially prepared for us at that hour of
day. The temple bath is made of huge stone, and it is very warm.
After the bath, we had miso soup and onigiri (rice sandwich).
Without my saying anything about it, people silently swept the
room and mopped the corridor before leaving. I did not know
most of them, as they were mostly Kyoto people, and they left
without giving their names. I wonder who they were.
At another time, also in Kyoto, before the Nanzenji Event, I had
a concert at Yamaichi Hall. It was called The Strip-tease Show
(it was stripping of the mind). When I met the High Monk the
next day, he seemed a bit dissatisfied.
I went to your concert, he said.
Thank you, did you like it?
Well, why did you have those three chairs on the stage and
call it a strip-tease by three?
If it is a chair or stone or woman, it is the same thing,
my Monk.
Where is the music?
The music is in the mind, my Monk.
But that is the same with what we are doing, arent you an
avant-garde composer?
That is a label which was put by others for convenience.
For instance, does Toshiro Mayuzumi create music of your
kind?
I can only speak for myself.
Do you have many followers?
No, but I know of two men who know what I am doing. I am
very thankful for that.
Though he is a High Monk he is extremely young, he may be
younger than myself. I wonder what the Monk is doing now.
x

People talk about happening. They say that art is headed towards
that direction, that happening is assimilating the arts. I dont
believe in collectivism of art nor in having only one direction
in anything. I think it is nice to return to having many different arts, including happening, just as having many flowers. In
fact, we could have more arts smell, weight, taste, cry,
anger (competition of anger, that sort of thing), etc. People
might say, that we never experience things separately, they are
always in fusion, and that is why the happening, which is a
fusion of all sensory perceptions. Yes, I agree, but if that is
so, it is all the more reason and challenge to create a sensory
experience isolated from other sensory experiences, which is
something rare in daily life. Art is not merely a duplication of
life. To assimilate art in life, is different from art duplicating life.
But returning to having various divisions of art, does not mean,
for instance, that one must use only sounds as means to create music. One may give instructions to watch the fire for 10
days in order to create music in the mind, or drink water once a
month to create a vision in ones mind.
*
The mind is omnipresent, events in life never happen alone and
the history is forever increasing its volume. The natural
state of life and mind is complexity. At this point, what art
can offer (if it can at all - to me it seems) is an absence of
complexity, a vacuum through which you are led to a state of
complete relaxation of mind. After that you may return to the
complexity of life again, it may not be the same, or it may be,
or you may never return, but that is your problem.
Mental richness should be worried just as physical richness.
Didnt Christ say that it was like a camel trying to pass
through a needle hole, for John Cage to go to heaven? I think
it is nice to abandon what you have as much as possible, as many
mental possessions as the physical ones, as they clutter your
mind. It is nice to maintain poverty of environment, sound,
thinking and belief. It is nice to keep oneself small, like a
grain of rice, instead of expanding. Make yourself dispensable,
like paper. See little, hear little, and think little.
The body is the Bodhi Tree
The mind like a bright mirror standing
Take care to wipe it all the time
And allow no dust to cling.
- Shen-hsiu
There never was a Bodhi Tree
Nor bright mirror standing
Fundamentally, not one thing exists
So where is the dust to cling?
- Hui-neng
y.o.

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x

1964
1964
1966

148

149

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Warren DeMotte, One WomanMany Arts, The Villager


Villager,
, March 18, 1965: 4.

Raymond Ericson, An Event Is Not a Happening,


New York Times,
Times, March 21, 1965.

150

151

1966 1969

On September 1, 1966, Yoko Ono sailed to Southampton on a cargo ship from


New York and from there . . . took a train to London. 1 The chain of events that
led up to this voyage began with the appointment of Brooklyn-born Mario Amaya
as editor of the new London magazine Art & Artists, whose first issue was
released in April 1966. Amaya had the idea of publishing a special summer issue
devoted to auto-destructive art, or art that attacked capitalist values and the
drive to nuclear annihilation. 2 He discussed this with London-based artist Gustav
Metzger, who had published five defining manifestos on auto-destructive and autocreative art between 1959 and 1964, as well as having created and performed
such work. Metzgers response to Amayas idea was to conceive the Destruction
in Art Symposium (DIAS) (pp. 15657), an international event that was to coincide
with the publication of this special issue.
Then, as Metzger tells us: In the Summer of 1966 Mario Amaya visited New York
and met Yoko Ono in her famous loft; he was bowled over. On his return, he told
us . . . you must get her to come to DIAS. Ono, Anthony Cox (her husband and
collaborator), and their small child arrived on the third day of the Symposium. 3
The symposium was held at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden from September
9 to 11, and these three days were preceded and succeeded by other events, the
entire affair lasting until the end of the month. The DIAS international committee,
composed primarily of artists and writers, including Amaya, Metzger, John Sharkey,
Ivor Davies, Bob Cobbing, dom sylvester houedard, and Barry Miles, issued a final
call for participants in the Auto Destructive issue of Art & Artists (August 1966).
Many artists signed on, such as Jean-Jacques Lebel, John Latham, Gunter Brus,
Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muhl, Rafael (Ralph) Ortiz, Juan Hidalgo, Wolf Vostell, Al
Hansen, and Ono.
The arrival of this cast of artists and activists in London was a disruption in an art
world that was mostly somnolent, enjoying the pleasures of Pop art and colorful
abstract sculpture. When the popular press learned of the activities at the symposium, it sank its teeth into the scruff of DIAS with stories of destruction and animal
sacrifice. Ono spoke at the symposium, and also performed, notably her Cut Piece
(1964; pp. 1069), twice, at Two Evenings with Yoko Ono at the Africa Centre on
September 28 and 29. Cut Piece, as it had in previous iterations, involved members of the audience coming up onstage and cutting off pieces of Onos clothing
until she was practically naked. As Metzger said of the two evenings, These were
sell-outs, especially the second one, because after the first one there was at least
one article in the press. And I remember people ringing up, begging, for tickets for
the second evening with that publicity.4 The response of the audience was very
intense: as soon as somebody stopped, the next [person stepped forward]; it
could have gone on for hours.5 Ono also enacted Whisper Piece, Shadow Piece,
and Disappearing Piece during DIASs month-long program.

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65. Yoko Ono delivering a talk at the Destruction in
Art Symposium, Africa Centre, London, September 11, 1966.
Photograph: Hanns Sohm

In London at this time, a number of alternative galleries, spaces, and publications


had been or were being established. One of the centers for alternative and countercultural ideas was the bookshop Better Books, which was managed by poet Bob
Cobbing, and subsequently by Barry Miles, who together with John Dunbar went on
to open the Indica Gallery and Bookshop, near Piccadilly, in 1966. As Miles related:

1966 1969

152

153

1966 1969

I dont recall how Yoko found us, but as she was staying initially with the art critic
Mario Amaya, he probably suggested that she visit. 6 In actual fact, when she first
arrived in London, Ono stayed briefly in a hotel, but then went to stay with artists
John Latham and Barbara Steveni and their children for about a fortnight, 7 after
Gustav Metzger had asked if anyone could put up Ono, her husband, and their child.
It was agreed that Indica would present an exhibition by Ono, titled YOKO at
INDICA (pp. 15863). The exhibition was open from November 9 to 22, 1966.
Dunbar says: It was up to Yoko what she wanted in the show . . . The catalogue
was very elaborate and cost quite a lot to produce, but I think that Tony and Yoko
luckily raised the money for that.8
One visitor described coming to the gallery on the night before opening night:
The place wasnt really opened, but John Dunbar, the owner, was . . .
flittering around like crazy. Now Im looking at this stuff. Theres a
couple of nails on a plastic box. Then I look over and see an apple
on a standa fresh apple on a stand with a note saying apple.
I thought, you know, This is a joke, this is pretty funny. . . . I said,
How much is the apple? Two hundred pounds? Really. . . . Then
I saw this ladder on a painting leading up to the ceiling where there
was a spyglass hanging down. . . . I went up the ladder and I got
the spyglass and there was tiny little writing there. You really have to
stand on the top of the ladder . . . and you look through and it just
says YES. 9
This spectator was John Lennon.
The other works in the exhibition were mostly white and often presented in transparent plastic frames or on transparent plastic plinths. They included White Chess
Set (1966; pl. 71), in which both sets of pieces are white; Painting to Be Stepped
On (1966), an earlier version of which was included in Onos 1961 AG Gallery
show (pl. 13); and Object in Three Parts (1966), which consists of a condom, a
diaphragm, and a birth control pill, each on a separate white plinth. A great many
of the works in the exhibition were examples of her instruction paintings and
demonstrated her notion of brain painting.10 The sources for many of them were
the scores printed in the 1964 edition of her book Grapefruit.11 For example, Water
Piece (1966) was derived from the score:
PAINTING TO BE WATERED
Water every day.
1962 summer
The popular press in London had seized upon Cut Piece when it was performed
at DIAS, and had subsequently focused intensely on Onos activities, egged on
by continual pressure from Cox, who was constantly on the phone doing the
PR for Yoko.12 This attention increased after Ono decided to stay on in London,
and particularly after the news broke that she had begun shooting an expanded
version of her five-and-a-half-minute Film No. 4 (1966; pp. 16467). Both films
were sequences of close-up shots of peoples buttocks in motion. The first version
included fifteen participants, who were filmed walking across Onos apartment. The
second version, which ran for eighty minutes, featured around two hundred participants shot on a treadmill-like apparatus from behind (pl. 73). The score for the
work is: String bottoms together in place of signatures for petition of peace. 13 Ono
stated that these bottoms in fact belonged to people who represented the London
scene.14 The participants included friends and associates, as well as members of
the public who responded to a 1967 questionnaire in the underground newspaper
the International Times. (Ono had performed Touch Piece [1964; pp. 9293] at the
launch of the International Times at the Roundhouse space on October 15, 1966.)

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66. Three Spoons. 1967. Plexiglas pedestal, silver plaque, and four silver spoons,
pedestal 55 x 11 14 x 11 14" (139.7 x 28.5 x 28.5 cm)

1966 1969

The film was submitted to the British Board of Film Censors for general release,
but was turned down. In March 1967, there was a demonstration against the ban.
Ono gave daffodils to people in the street as a protest, and contributed to the
bedecking of the censors office with more daffodils. A photograph of this event
got into the newspapers and the censorship became news. Probably due partly to
this commotion, the ban was overturned, and the film was finally premiered in a
cinema in Soho, London, on August 8, 1967.
Five days earlier, Onos Lion Wrapping Event (pp. 16869) in Trafalgar Square
amounted to a different kind of public event. Trafalgar Square, just a street away
from Parliament, has been called the cockpit of the nation, and has been a cradle
of protest for many years. Ono had first attempted her Trafalgar Square work the
year before, while her exhibition at Indica was on view. She had tried to cover with
paper one of the large bronze lions that guard the column celebrating Admiral
Horatio Nelsons victories, but the event was halted partway through, due to rain
and the intervention of the police. Coming back ten months later, she successfully wrapped and unwrapped one of the lions in white cloth under the gaze of the
populacewith police permission, since this time they thought Ono was shooting
a scene for a film.15
Around this time, Ono visited the newly established Lisson Gallery, near Londons
Marylebone, which was seeming to attract the attention of the emerging London
art world at that time, according to its owner, Nicholas Logsdail.16 Ono met
Logsdail, and subsequently invited him to her flat for a visit,17 after which, he said,
frequent meetings and discussions ensued. 18 The resultant exhibition, which
ran from October 11 to November 14, featured four environments: a new iteration
of The Stone (1966; pp. 13843); The Blue Room (1966); Half-A-Room (1967;
pp. 17073); and Backyard (1967). Apart from Half-A-Room, which mostly survives,
the installations have largely been lost or destroyed (though some of their constituent parts still exist and are now considered stand-alone artworks). Everything in
Half-A-Room had been halved: chairs existed as halves, as did a flower arrangement, a set of shelves, a hat, shoes, a lamp, a bed, a table, a radio. This concept is
likely to have had its emotional origins in Onos marital split.19

154

1966 1969

155
NOTES
1.

Yoko Ono, in Yoko Ono and others, Is that an apple? Yoko


Ono in London, Art Monthly, no. 212 (December 1997
January 1998): 2.
2. Gustav Metzger, Auto-Destructive Art, Machine Art,
Auto-Creative Art (Third Manifesto) (1961), in Sabine
Breitwieser, ed., Gustav Metzger: History History (Vienna:
Generali Foundation, 2005), p. 228.
3. Metzger, in Ono and others, Yoko Ono in London, p. 2.
4. Metzger, interview by the author, 1997, NLSC: Artists
Lives, British Library Sound & Moving Image Catalogue,
reference C466/50, track 021A.
5. Ibid.
6. Barry Miles, in Ono and others, Yoko Ono in London,
p. 4.
7. Barbara Steveni, in conversation with the author, July 11,
2014. Stevenis son, Noa Latham, agrees with her, and
said that it was about 23 weeks. E-mail to the author,
August 19, 2014.
8. John Dunbar, in Ono and others, Yoko Ono in London,
p. 4.
9. John Lennon, interview by David Sheff, in G. Barry Golson,
ed., The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono
(New York: Berkeley Books, 1982), pp. 11517.
10. In the exhibition catalogue, Ono replies to a question as
to whether painting is a dying art by saying that first they
painted with hands, then they painted with eyes, then with
heart, and then with brain. The discussion asserts that
Duchamp instituted brain painting, and that Yoko Ono
continues brain painting. See Yoko OnoInstruction
Painting, in YOKO at INDICA (London: Indica, 1966), n.p.

11. Ono, Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, 1964), n.p.


12. Steveni, e-mail to the author, May 5, 2014.
13. Film No. 4: Bottoms, in Jon Hendricks and Ina Blom, eds.,
Yoko Ono: Insound/Instructure (Hvikodden, Norway:
Sonia Henie and Niels Onstad Foundation, 1990), p. 14.
14. Ibid., p. 15.
15. Although Christo proposed a project for a packaged public
building in Paris in 1961, he did not package an entire
building until he wrapped the Kunsthalle Bern in 1968two
years after Yoko Ono first attempted to wrap one of the
lions. See Marina Vaizey, Christo (Barcelona: Ediciones
Polgrafa, S.A., 1990), pp. 2829, 4647.
16. Nicholas Logsdail, in Ono and others, Yoko Ono in
London, p. 7.
17. See letter of invitation from Yoko Ono to Nicholas Logsdail,
September 23, 1967, in Yoko Ono, Grapefruit (London:
Sphere Books, 1971), n.p.
18. Logsdail, Yoko Ono in London, p. 7.
19. A few years later, in 1971, Geoffrey Hendricks and Bici
Hendricks (nee Forbes; now known as Nye Ffarrabas)
enacted their Flux Divorce, an event in which the artists
cut many domestic items in half.
20. Ray Coleman, Lennon (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985),
p. 398.
21. Chrissie Iles, Rape, in Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan
Society and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), p. 216. Eva Majlath
was the subject in the film, and Christian Wangler handled
the sound during the filming.

Coxs efforts to publicize Onos work had achieved great success, but the interest
of the press and the media expanded even further when her acquaintance with
John Lennon, a Beatle after all, became deeper and more public. And although
Lennon and Ono together also fostered the publicity, the attention developed to
a point when it became over-intrusive. Thus, Ono created a score for a film titled
Rape in 1968, which proposes that a cameraman will chase a girl on a street
with a camera until she is cornered and falls over. The following year, she and
Lennon gave directions to the cameraman Nic Knowland to film the 77-minute
work. (They were not present for the filming.) Lennon biographer Ray Coleman
claimed that the film parodied the story of the Beatles escalator to success, 20 but
it is much more likely that it reflected what curator Chrissie Iles described as the
tension and fear felt by Ono and Lennon as the intrusive press and public attention
generated by their fame became increasingly harder to bear. 21 The rest of their
lives together would be in the public eye.

Clive Phillpot

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1966 1969

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157

DESTRUCTION IN ART SYMPOSIUM

DESTRUCTION IN ART SYMPOSIUM


Various locations, London
September 1966

Organized by artist Gustav Metzger and others, the


Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) brought together
artists and intellectuals from around the world to examine
increasingly destructive tendencies in art and society.
The symposium was held at Londons Africa Centre from
September 9 to 11, 1966, with associated performances
and events running all September at locations throughout the city.
Ono and dancer Barbara Gladstone were the
only two scheduled women contributors to the monthlong event. During a speech on the final day of the
symposium, Ono distinguished herself from her male
contemporaries, who carried out aggressive actions
such as burning books (John Latham) and taking an ax
to a piano (Ralph Ortiz). Expressing interest in quiet
destructions . . . such as forgetting, dreaming, or simply
thinking, Ono contended that it would be more meaningful to change social values than to destroy physical
objects.1 She concluded the talk on a dark note, however, by instructing the audience to hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about
you. Hide until everybody dies.2
Ono performed a number of works associated
with the symposium in the days and weeks following
her talk. She performed Shadow Eventrealizing an
instruction she conceived in 1963in the London Free
School playground by tracing the shadows of volunteers,
as well as a dog, in red chalk on a long scroll of fabric.
The site was located in an area that had been leveled
by bombs just two decades prior, the performance thus
bringing to mind the casualties of World War II and, specifically, the shadowlike forms left on walls and other surfaces by victims of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. During an event titled Two Evenings with
Yoko Ono at the Africa Centre, Ono enacted two works
she had debuted in 1964: Cut Piece (pp. 1069) and Bag
Piece (pp. 11013). Both works shifted meaning with
each new presentation. In Cut Piece, the context of DIAS
and the presence of the voracious British press heightened the violent potential of the work. Metzger recalled
that he even initiated the protective presence of five or
six men seated in the front row ready to intervene if necessary. His precautions were ultimately unnecessary. As
he explained, The audience, you felt, was in support of
this lonely figure facing . . . death, actually. At [the works]
most extreme. Facing a certain risk. 3

1. Yoko Ono, Talk Delivered at


the Destruction in Art Symposium
(DIAS) in London, September 1966, in
Kerry Brougher and Russell Ferguson,
eds., Damage Control: Art and
Destruction Since 1950 (Washington,
D.C.: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture
Garden, 2013), p. 80.
2. Ibid., p. 81.
3. Gustav Metzger, interview by
Clive Phillpot, London, July 3, 2014.

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67. Poster for DIAS Presents Two Evenings with Yoko Ono. 1966.
Offset, sheet 23 12 x 17 1516" (59.7 x 45.5 cm)

1966 1969

158

159

YOKO AT INDICA

YOKO AT INDICA
Indica Gallery, London
November 922, 1966

Founded by John Dunbar and Barry Miles in 1965,


Indica was an alternative art space and bookstore in
London. Prior to its closing in 1967, it exhibited works by
the Groupe de Recherche dArt Visuel, Takis, and other
artists associated with the recently closed Signals
Gallery. Dunbar offered Ono a show on very short
notice, following her September arrival in the UK for
the Destruction in Art Symposium, and the resultant
presentationtitled YOKO at INDICAwas her first
solo exhibition in London.
The show included roughly fifteen paintings and
twenty-five objects; almost all the pieces were white or
made with clear Plexiglas. One of the works was Onos
iconic sculpture Apple (1966; pl. 70), which comprises
the single piece of fruit on a tall Plexiglas column with
a prominent title plaque. Ono explains, There is the
excitement of the apple decomposing, and then the
decision as to whether to replace it, or just thinking
of the beauty of the apple after its gone. 1 In Sky TV
(1966), she used closed-circuit televisioncuttingedge technology at the timeto bring live imagery of
the London sky into the gallery.
Since the early 1960s, Ono had frequently distanced the execution of her works from her conception
of them, and she continued this tendency in the Indica
show. For Add Color Painting (1961/1966; pl. 69), she
placed paint and brushes on a chair beneath a blank
canvas, permitting each visitor to add a single color
to the surface. The outcome was unpredictable; one
visitor even pasted an advertisement for the exhibition
onto the canvas. According to Miles, White Chess Set
(1966; pl. 71) was the most popular work in the show.2
Rounds of the game would quickly unravel, as the players were unable to distinguish between their all-white
chess pieces and those of their opponents. The work
thus illustrated Onos antiwar stance.
A number of celebrated figures visited the exhibition, such as filmmaker Roman Polanski, who returned
on multiple occasions to play White Chess Set with
his future wife, actress Sharon Tate.3 The gallery guest
book conveys the variety of people who attendedfrom
French financier Baron de Rothschild to the legendary
Kunsthalle Bern director Harald Szeemann.4 Shortly
before the show opened, John Lennon stopped by the
gallery, meeting Ono for the first time. Enthused by Ono
and her art, he was the first person to sign the guest
book, including his middle name, Winston, and his
home address.

1. Yoko Ono, quoted in 3 >


new multiple art (London: Arts
Council of Great Britain [1970?]),
p. 60. Published to accompany an
exhibition at the Whitechapel Art
Gallery, London, November 19, 1970
January 3, 1971.
2. Barry Miles, In the Sixties
(London: Jonathan Cape, 2002),
p. 146.
3. Ibid.
4. From scans of the books
pages. Courtesy John Dunbar.

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68. YOKO at INDICA. 1966. Exhibition catalogue,


offset and letterpress, open (front and back covers) 10 1516 x 11" (27.8 x 28 cm).
Publisher: Indica Gallery, London

1966 1969

160

161

YOKO AT INDICA

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69. Add Color Painting. 1961/1966. Paint, newspaper, and foil on canvas,
15 1516 x 15 1516" (40.5 x 40.5 cm)

70. Apple. 1966. Plexiglas pedestal, brass plaque, and apple,


pedestal 45 x 6 1116 x 6 1516" (114.3 x 17 x 17.6 cm)

1966 1969

162

163

YOKO AT INDICA

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71. Yoko Ono and Anthony Cox playing chess on Onos White Chess Set (1966),
with other works included in her exhibition at back,
at Indica Gallery, London, November 1966. Photograph: E. Wilkins

72. Yoko Ono with Ceiling Painting (1966) at Indica Gallery, London,
November 1966. Photograph: Graham Keen

1966 1969

164

165

FILM NO. 4

FILM NO. 4
196667

In the first version of Onos Film No. 4, full-framed shots


of the moving buttocks of fifteen people (including Ben
Patterson, Jeff Perkins, Carolee Schneemann, James
Tenney, and Ono herself) appear on-screen, each for
ten to twenty seconds. Ono shot the film in her New York
apartment, at 1 West 100 Street, in 1966, the same year
she produced Match Piece (aka No. 1) and Eyeblink
with George Maciunas. The finished film was screened
in February in the Fluxfilm Festival in New York,1 and was
released individually as a Fluxus Edition with a handcranked peep-show-style viewer.
Beginning later that year, in London, Ono made
a new, extended version of the work, now setting out to
include 365 participants. In order to obtain the necessary number of bottoms, Ono and Anthony Cox placed
advertisements in the underground press and distributed fliers. Ultimately, she recorded around two hundred. For the many film sessions, she used a customized apparatus that allowed people to walk in place while
remaining centered in the camera shot. The resultant
eighty-minute feature includes a soundtrack in which
interviews with the participants play out of sync with the
imagery on-screen. Speaking about the film later, Ono
explained, For me the film is less about bottoms than
about a certain beat, a beat you didnt see in films, even
in avant-garde films then. 2
In a program that accompanied the London
release of the new version of Film No. 4, Ono expressed
her antiestablishment aims. Denouncing the professionalism of the film world, she mentioned her desire to
show that anyone could direct or star in a motion picture.3
The film, however, spurred widespread controversy,
resulting in a ban by the British Board of Film Censors.
Ono, armed with daffodils, stood outside the boards
office in protest, and eventually the film was certified, but
with an X rating. When Film No. 4 opened at Londons
Jacey-Tatler cinema in August 1967, the venue earned
its third highest ticket sales.4 Nonetheless, the film continued to be censured in the media and in film festivals.
In December 1967, for instance, the Royal Film Library
of Belgium rejected it from the fourth edition of Exprmntl,
an international festival of experimental film in Knokkele-Zoute.

1. The Fluxfilms were short


films by Fluxus artists that George
Maciunas compiled as the Fluxfilm
Anthology. Onos Film No. 4 was one
of these. It was included in the anthology, where it was labeled Fluxfilm
No. 16. The film is also known by the
title Bottoms.
2. Yoko Ono, Yoko Ono: Ideas
on Film: Interview/Scripts, interview
by Scott MacDonald, Film Quarterly
43, no. 1 (Autumn 1989): 8.
3. Yoko Ono, On Film No. 4
SEE! (in taking the bottoms of 365
saints of our time) (film program,
self-published, 1967).
4. Yoko Ono, interview by Jud
Yalkut, East Village Other 4, no. 30
(June 25, 1969): 9.

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73. Yoko Ono directing Film No. 4, London, 1966.
Photograph: Graham Keen

1966 1969

166

167

FILM NO. 4

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74. Poster for Film No. 4. 1967. Offset, 13 x 8" (33 x 20.3 cm)

75. Film No. 4. 196667. 16mm film (black-and-white, sound), 80 min.

1966 1969

168

169

LION WRAPPING EVENT

LION WRAPPING EVENT


Trafalgar Square, London
August 3, 1967

Over the course of six hours, Ono and a small group of


friends used white cloth to slowly wrap and then unwrap
one of the four large bronze lions in Trafalgar Square.
Directly facing the National Gallery, the site is central
to Britains cultural identity. The nineteenth-century lion
sculptures form part of a monument commemorating the
death, in 1805, of Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of
Trafalgar. Covering one of them in white cloth suggested
a pacifist stance during a time of escalating tension over
the Vietnam War.
Ono first attempted Lion Wrapping Event in
November 1966, while her exhibition at Indica (pp. 158
63) was still installed. The action was stopped short,
however, due to the intervention of the police and the
onslaught of rain, which dampened the paper she was
using to wrap the lion. With further planning, Ono was able
to realize the work without complications for the 1967 iteration. She created a twenty-six-minute film documenting
the event and commissioned the electronic musician Delia
Derbyshire to create a soundtrack. The film was screened
in August 1967 alongside Onos Film No. 4 (196667;
pp. 16467), at the Jacey-Tatler cinema on Charing Cross
Road, a short walk from Trafalgar Square.
Wrapping and binding were recurring themes
in Onos work, prompting associations ranging from
trauma and healing to concealment and intimacy. She
has reflected that in order to let something be you have
to cloak it. 1

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1. Yoko Ono, interview by
Chrissie Iles, August 1997, quoted
in Chrissie Iles, Yoko Ono: Have You
Seen the Horizon Lately? (Oxford,
UK: Museum of Modern Art Oxford,
1997), p. 67.

76 and 77. Lion Wrapping Event. August 3, 1967.


Trafalgar Square, London. Photographs: Anthony Cox (top) and Nigel Hartnup (bottom)

1966 1969

170

171

HALF-A-ROOM

HALF-A-ROOM
1967

With the simple act of subtraction, Yoko Onos Half-ARoom installation turned a suite of domestic objects,
arranged as they might be in a room in an ordinary home,
into a site for rumination on the divide between body and
mind or between people. The artist cut all her chosen
items in halffrom chairs, tables, and a rug to ordinary
kitchen utensilsand painted them white. By stripping
the objects of their original function and placing them in
a roomlike installation, Ono compelled visitors to see the
familiar domestic environment in a new way.
Also titled Half-A-Spring Room, the installation
was part of Onos fall 1967 exhibition Yoko Ono HalfA-Wind Show, at the newly opened Lisson Gallery in
London. The show featured three additional environmentsincluding a new realization of The Stone (1966;
pp. 13843)as well as several objects. Three Spoons
(1967; pl. 66) comprised four (not three) silver spoons
displayed on a clear Plexiglas pedestal. The exhibition also included a new version of Hammer a Nail
Paintinga work Ono conceived in 1961 and produced
for the first time for her 1966 Indica Gallery show. Her
1967 version consisted of a metal panel and a glass
hammer, inviting an action that would inevitably shatter
the tool and thus result in the works destruction.
Photographs of the installation show Ono sitting
or standing alone in the room (pl. 78). Somebody said I
should also put half-a-person in the show, Ono reflected.
But we are halves already.1 The exhibition was the first
to include a collaborative work made by Ono and John
Lennon. The work came about when Ono told Lennon
about this half idea that she had for the show, and he
responded, Why dont you put the other half in bottles.2
Air Bottles (1967) comprised a series of empty glass
containers placed on a high shelf in the gallerys back
room; to each was affixed a handwritten label that noted
half of an object or concept.

1. Yoko Ono, Some Notes on


the Lisson Gallery Show, in Yoko
Ono Half-A-Wind Show (London:
Lisson Gallery, 1967), n.p. This volume, p. 180.
2. Yoko Ono, interview, EGG:
The Arts Show, PBS, 2003; see www.
pbs.org/wnet/egg/209/ono/interview_
content_1.html.

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78. Yoko Ono in Half-A-Room at Lisson Gallery, London, 1967.
Photograph: Clay Perry

1966 1969

172

173

HALF-A-ROOM

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79. Half-A-Room. 1967.


Domestic objects cut in half, most painted white, dimensions vary upon installation

19661969

174

175

YOKO'S VOICE

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INDICA PLAN

Artists notes and drawings for YOKO at INDICA (pp. 15863),


Indica Gallery, London. 1966. Four spreads from a notebook, ink and graphite on paper,
each spread 8 x 12 1/2" (20.3 x 31.8 cm)

19661969

176

177

YOKO'S VOICE

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INDICA PLAN

Artists notes and drawings for YOKO at INDICA (pp. 15863),


Indica Gallery, London. 1966. Two pages, felt-tip pen on paper,
each 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.3 cm)

19661969

178

179

YOKO'S VOICE

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INDICA PLAN

Artists notes and drawings for YOKO at INDICA (pp. 15863),


Indica Gallery, London. 1966. Two pages, felt-tip pen on paper,
each 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.3 cm)

19661969

180

181

YOKO'S VOICE

Some practical and tangible future plans:


NOTES ON THE LISSON GALLERY SHOW

Some Notes on the Lisson Gallery Show y.o. October 67 London

The light house is a phantom house that is built by sheer light.


You set up prisms and at a certain time of the day, under a
certain evening light which goes through the prisms, the light
house appears in the middle of the field like an image, except
that, with this image, you can actually go inside if you wanted
to. The light house may not emerge every day, just as the sun
doesnt shine every day.
The wind house is a house on a hill. The rooms and the windows
are so constructed so it makes music, like a whistle, depending
on the wind that goes through.

I think of this show as an elephants tail.


Life is only half a game. Molecules are always at the verge of
half disappearing and half emerging.
Somebody said I should also put half-a-person in the show. But
we are halves already.
Seng, Sung, Sang, Sing and Song were good musicians. The princess asked them to play for the concert of the midsummer night
of the warmest day in Li-Fung. It was a tradition in Li-Fung for
the best musicians to get together and play for the people all
night and soothe the air from the heat. Seng said he would not
play because he did not have enough time to prepare. Sung immediately went into an intensive and elaborate preparation. Sang
did nothing. He wandered around the fields until the day came.
On the night, Seng was not there. Sungs music overwhelmed people. Sang went on the stage, and when he sang, the warm wind
went through his lungs and came out, transformed into the most
beautiful music. It was the warm wind that made the music, he
said. Sing did not even sing. He just stood on the stage and
smiled, and the smile sent vibrations into peoples mind, and
they heard, they heard their minds tingling, and they smiled
back. Do you know anything about Song? People say that he was
too pure, and one day, he just suddenly turned into air and was
assimilated into the skies.

Moon-music: This is a well that is receptive to the moon-tide


and makes music according to the tide. When we were fish, the
sea-water surrounded us. When we came on ground, we carried the
sea inside us. Our blood structure is 90% salt-water. Theres a
very strong tie between us and the moon-tide. They say that when
you die a natural death it is invariably when the tide is low.
You should have the moon-music in your house like you would have
a clock. And when it sings, you will remember the connection.
TV to see the sky: This is a TV just to see the sky. Different
channels for different skies, high-up sky, low sky, etc.

Published in Yoko Ono Half-A-Wind Show, exh. cat. (London:


Lisson Gallery, 1967)

It is sad that the air is the only thing we share. No matter how
close we get to each other, there is always air between us. It
is also nice that we share the air. No matter how far apart we
are, the air links us.
The switch piece is meant to be mass-produced. By using this
switch, you can dispense with a large part of language communication. Instead of shouting to your husband who is in the bath
that the dinner is ready, you can turn on the light in the bathroom from the kitchen. Instead of calling your wife and telling
her that you are coming home, you can just turn the light in her
room from 500 miles away and she will know that you are on your
way home, etc., etc. I would have a whole room of lights, like
a light flower garden, and see which friends are tuning in.
When Hammer A Nail painting was exhibited at Indica Gallery, a
person came and asked if it was alright to hammer a nail in the
painting. I said it was alright if he pays 5 shillings. Instead
of paying the 5 shillings, he asked if it was alright for him to
hammer an imaginary nail in. That was John Lennon. I thought,
so I met a guy who plays the same game I played. This time John
suggested how about selling the other half of my half-a-matter
objects in bottles. It was such a beautiul idea I decided to use
it even though it was not mine.

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1966
1966
1969

182

183

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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The Honourable Art of Selling an Apple for 200,


Daily Sketch,
Sketch, November 15, 1966

Yoko, the girl behind a protest, Daily Sketch,


Sketch,
March 11, 1967

1966
1966
1969

184

185

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Ivor Turnbull, The Strange Arts of Yoko Ono, London Look


Look,
,
March 18, 1967: 3031.

1966
1966
1969

186

187

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Ivor Turnbull, The Strange Arts of Yoko Ono, London Look


Look,
,
March 18, 1967: 3233.

188

189

1969 1971

Im not somebody who wants to burn the Mona Lisa. Thats the
great difference between some revolutionaries and me.
Yoko Ono, 1972 1
In Yoko Onos archives there is a black-and-white photograph of a small threedimensional piece produced in 1968 (pl. 81), at the moment when Ono and John
Lennon were beginning to collaborate on audio works, a pursuit that would eventually embody an important aspect of their lives together. The piece, created by
Lennon and now lost, consisted of four objects on a painted wooden base. In
the forefront are a two-part transparent plastic rectangular box, an upright clear
plastic tube,2 and, at the far right, an audio cassette case. To the rear of the work
is a cube that appears to be a clear acrylic paperweight, placed on top of a small
wooden plinth.
This collection of objects might be read as stand-ins for members of a typical rock
band: the rectangle and cassette case standing in for guitar players (or a guitarist and a vocalist), the tube for a bassist, the cube for a drummer. Their presence
as hollow, transparent plastic objects, however, gives a key conceptual hint to the
workthis might be any band, or even anybody. A label applied to the base of the
piece provides the title: Plastic Ono Band.
In November 1968, around the same point in time as the sculpture was made,
Ono and Lennon released their first collaborative record, Unfinished Music No.
1: Two Virgins (pl. 80). The front cover of the 12-inch vinyl LP was adorned with a
black-and-white full-frontal nude image of the artists, photographed by Lennon.3
The verso, logically, featured a corresponding photo of them from the rear. The
recording, made in Lennons home studio in Surrey, England, can be described
as an avant-garde soundscape of audio loops featuring Lennon on various instruments filtered by audio delay and other distortions, overlaid with Onos improvised
vocals in response to the processed audio. Whereas Onos previous vocal works
were performed for people attuned to experimental music,4 Two VirginsOnos
first record albumwas released in a pressing of well over one hundred thousand
copies worldwide and thus meant to reach a broader audience.
Two Virgins was followed by Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions in May
1969 and Wedding Album in October of the same year.5 The albums tracked similar trajectories of sound, aligning Lennons music with Onos open-ended structure
and improvisational sensibilities, through which they distanced themselves from
pop formulas. The last of the three records, Wedding Album, was a kind of climax:
an elaborate boxed set containing a single LP record and an extravagant compilation of wedding-inspired ephemera, including a loose postcard of Ono and Lennon
in bed in Amsterdam under their HAIR PEACE and BED PEACE posters.6

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80. Photograph from John Lennon and Yoko Onos shoot
for the cover of their LP Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, 1968.
Photograph: John Lennon

As layered and rich as the packaging was, the audio of Wedding Album proved
to be a conundrum for listeners. Side one consisted of a single twenty-two-minute track that has often been described as the artists wailing, but is more accurately characterized as an extended recording of Ono and Lennon engaged in
what could be described as wedding-night conjugal bliss. In contrast, side two,

1969 1971

190

191

1969 1971

titled Amsterdam, is composed of collaged excerpts of interviews and other found


sound accumulated over the couples Bed-In for Peace in Amsterdam Hilton Hotel
in March 1969 (pp. 19899)a seven-day event in which they protested for peace
from their temporary bed. A second such weeklong event, titled Bed-In, followed,
starting on May 26, 1969, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. These actions
capitalized on the artists capacity to galvanize their own personas as instruments
for social change in the face of the war in Vietnam. As Lennon stated regarding the
conception of the Bed-Ins:
Personally we thought, What have we got in common? Its a desire
to change the world a little bit. So how to do it? And so we went
through the whole idea of creating the idea of being in bed till we
came up with that conclusion, to be in bed! Thats the best way for
the two of us to do it! 7
From another angle, the Bed-Ins can be seen as an amalgam in which the nonviolent civil-rights sit-in protests that took place during the mid-1950s and early
1960s merged with the decidedly hedonistic pro-psychedelics Human Be-In that
was staged in San Francisco on January 14, 1967. 8
While the term media circus may have not been coined until the 1970s, it suggests exactly what Ono and Lennon encountered when they staged their Bed-In
in Montreal, as in every aspect of their lives together.9 In addition to members of
the media, the event drew counterculture celebrities, culminating on the evening
of June 1, when Lennon, Ono, Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Petula Clark,
Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, radio DJ Murray the K, and a hotel room full of wellwishers recorded Give Peace a Chance. The song, which embodied the fervent
sentiment of the antiwar movement, was released on July 4, 1969, becoming the
first Plastic Ono Band record.
For the cover of the single (pl. 82), Ono reimagined the 1968 Plastic Ono Band
object. What had been a small tabletop collection of items was now a larger work
whose components resembled the pedestals for Onos sculptures in her 1966
Indica Gallery exhibition (pp. 15863). This latest Plastic Ono Band, now at human
scale, comprised a microphone stand placed inside two Plexiglas cylinders; two
stacked Plexiglas boxes; a turntable sitting on a third box; and a reel-to-reel tape
deck set atop a tall Plexiglas pedestal. In September 1969, for a concert at the
Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival, a new version of the human Plastic Ono
Band was assembled featuring, in addition to Ono and Lennon, Eric Clapton on
guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, and Alan White on drums. From 1969 through the
mid-1970s, Plastic Ono Bandtrue to the definition of the word plasticwould
take many different forms. The lineup continually changed, with members coming
in and out (though Voormann was a consistent presence). This post-Beatles band
became Lennons initial route toward a vastly more stripped-down form of music,
opposed to the deeply layered and orchestrated sound of his former band. For
Ono the band was more than a namesake; it was a vehicle for the vocal and performance pieces that had begun almost ten years prior. Previously, Ono had been
engaged primarily with avant-garde endeavors, and the capacity to work in professional sound studios with musicians and engineers was a liberating opportunity
for her, allowing her to stretch her voice into new realms of instrumentation. This
prolific period produced a wellspring of albums, providing an expansive opportunity for Ono to challenge not only herself, Lennon, and Plastic Ono Band, but also
the larger musical community and record-buying public.

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81. Still from the documentary film John Lennon & Yoko Ono,
produced by Hans Preiner/ORF, showing John Lennons sculpture Plastic Ono Band (1968)

If the first third of the 1960s can be characterized by a brewing alternative scene
gathering strength just below the surface of a broader culture, then the final years
of the decade and the first part of the 1970s marked a diagrammatic shift where
counterculture merged, or at least became aligned, with society at large. The previously clear line between artists and activists, now united by a common political

1969 1971

agenda, blurred. Ono and Lennons WAR IS OVER! campaign (pp. 200203) arose
during this time. In twelve international cities prior to Christmas 1969, an assortment of postcards, posters, and large-scale billboards displaying the campaigns
title statementin each citys respective languageappeared simultaneously. No
longer needing to be tied to a single city to stage an event, Ono and Lennon,
through mass communication and large-scale distribution of their albums, now
permeated the globe by way of their art.
Despite Onos visibility during this period based on her and Lennons fusing of art
and private life, her work going forward would increasingly become independent of
her physical presence. In 1971, she returned to an elusive artistic practice that she
had begun developing in the instruction pieces assembled in her 1964 artists book,
Grapefruit (pp. 100105). Often prioritizing transitory, open-ended experiences over
objects produced by the artists hand, such pieces foreshadowed the sly, rebellious
ploy seen with her fictitious solo exhibition in 1971 (pp. 20813). Advertised by Ono
in The Village Voice and the New York Times,10 the show would allegedly be held
from December 1 to 15 at The Museum of Modern Art. While the exhibition itself
was imaginaryno works by Ono were displayed in the galleries, nor was the artist present or the event sanctioned by the Museumit was very much real in the
sense that it brought together artistic actions that warranted contemplation, though
here the actions involved absence rather than presence. At the center of this exhibition was, supposedly, a work involving flies scented with Onos perfume, Ma
Griffe, that had been released in the Museums sculpture garden.
The exhibition project included interviewing visitors to the Museum about the show
(which of course they could not have actually experienced). The interviews were
filmed, and the resulting reportage is comic and at times insightful, and only occasionally do visitors show flashes of resentment that the show was purely a subversion of their expectations. An artists booktitled Museum Of Modern (F)art, after
the artists renaming of the Museum in a manipulated photo on the books cover
added another layer of intrigue, through photographs by Iain Macmillan and Ono
that allegedly tracked the flies migration from the Museum and then throughout
New York City, which was now becoming home to Ono and Lennon.

192

1969 1971

193
NOTES

The author wishes to thank Jennie Waldow, Louise


Bourgeois 12-Month Intern, Department of Drawings and
Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, for her assistance with
this text.
1.

2.
3.

4.

5.

Yoko Ono, in John and Yoko: I Dont Like All This Dribblin
Pop-Opera-Jazz. I Like Pop Records, in Hit Parader
(Derby, Conn.), February 1972: 44.
The tube is a container for a brush used to clean vinyl
records.
I thought that the best picture of her for an album would
be her naked. I was just going to record her as an artist,
we were only on those kind of terms then. So after that,
when we got together it just seemed natural for us, if we
made an album together, for both of us to be naked. John
Lennon, in The Rolling Stone Interview: John Lennon,
by Jonathan Cott, Rolling Stone, no. 22 (November 23,
1968): 14. See also Jim Buckley, In Bed With John and
Yoko, Screw: The Sex Review (New York), no. 18 (June
27, 1969): 6.
For example, Ono contributed her own original vocals to
John Cages 26'55.988" for 2 Pianists & a String Player,
performed in Osaka on October 17, 1962, and enacted her
own works in many contemporary avant-garde and Fluxus
contexts internationally throughout the 1960s.
Lennon quotes Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions
as having initially sold over sixty thousand copies in the
United States. See John & Yoko: Give Em a Chance!,
interview of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Fusion (Boston),
no. 27 (February 20, 1970): 15.

6.

The ephemera also included a reproduction of Ono and


Lennons wedding certificate, issued in the British Territory
of Gibraltar; a photograph of a slice of wedding cake; a
seventeen-page booklet of wedding photos and press clippings; a strip of photo-booth portraits of the pair; and a
large poster of the newlyweds wedding photographs.
7. Give Em a Chance, p. 16. This was one of many
responses Lennon and Ono provided to the international
press duringand followingtheir two Bed-Ins and press
conferences.
8. The suffix -in was used in the names of myriad events in
the 1960s, from Yippie Yip-ins to sexual love-ins, culminating in the NBC television show Laugh-In, which ran from
1968 to 1973. Ono also used in as a prefix in her 1964
concepts of Insound and Instructure. See Alexandra Munroe,
Spirit of YES: The Art and Life of Yoko Ono, in Alexandra
Munore and Jon Hendricks, eds., Yes Yoko Ono (New York:
Japan Society and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), p. 12.
9. The event was documented not only in copious news footage but also in a documentary made by Lennon and Ono,
titled Bed Peace, and in a short movie shot by the filmmaker Jonas Mekas. Lennon and Onos film can be found
at http://imaginepeace.com/archives/15702 and Mekass at
http://jonasmekasfilms.com/40/film.php?film=11.
10. The advertisement appeared in The Village Voice on
November 25, 1971, and December 2, 1971, and in the
New York Times on November 27, 1971.

In the 1960s Ono often engaged with a host of avant-garde musicians and artists,
from John Cage to George Maciunas and other innovators associated with the
Fluxus generation. Her art took many forms, including purely conceptual actions
and performative pieces. Similarly, it grew in dimension from small-scale events
in downtown Manhattan lofts to concerts and exhibitions in formal art galleries
and recital halls, all while remaining aggressively on the edge of both worlds
these works were neither conceived entirely for consumption nor wholly distant
from a need to be performed or otherwise activated in public. And, like the mass
media and alternative-culture periodicals that came to intensely document her
every activity, both public and private, Ono continued to seek out the fine line
between artistic and political activism that challenges the entrenched establishment. Through her partnerships with Lennon, Ono was inescapably thrust into the
public eye. She used her spotlight to push popular culture in a radical direction on
the cusp of the 1970s, making their life together part of her art, and challenging
audiences unaccustomed to avant-garde performance to accept unconventional
practices that had previously resided on the margins.

David Platzker

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1969 1971

194

195

PLASTIC ONO BAND

PLASTIC ONO BAND


est. c. 196869

Around 1968, Ono decided to create a band that would


never exist . . . that didnt have a set number of members . . .
that could accommodate anyone who wanted to play
with it. 1 Advertisements for the band included the statement You are the Plastic Ono Band. The name derived
from a small three-dimensional workcomposed almost
entirely of transparent plastic objects (pl. 81)that John
Lennon made in response to Onos initial concept.
The musical output of the band grew from Ono
and Lennons earlier collaborations, beginning with the
album Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, recorded in
one session in May 1968 (pl. 80). Though conceptually
Plastic Ono Band had no members, in practice it had a
flexible lineup. For a performance at the Toronto Rock and
Roll Revival festival in September 1969, the band consisted of Ono, Lennon, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann,
and Alan White. During this sessionwhich produced
the bands first live recordingOno performed her Bag
Piece (1964; pp. 11013), entering a white bag in the
middle of the stage. A number of other performances likewise incorporated Onos earlier works, or they introduced
new artistic pursuits. In a concert at Londons Lyceum
Ballroom in December 1969, for instance, Plastic Ono
Supergroupwhich comprised the five members mentioned above as well as seven other noted musicians of
the timepublicly launched Ono and Lennons global
WAR IS OVER! campaign (pp. 200203).
Ono was also involved in the visual design of the
albums. For the cover of the 1971 Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono
Band album Fly (pl. 84), she used a photograph of herself taken by Lennon. The cover serves as a pendant to
that of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album from the
same year, Imagine (pl. 85), which displays a photograph
of Lennon taken by Ono.
Plastic Ono Band continued releasing records,
often featuring Onos singular voice, through the mid1970s. In 2009, Ono revived Plastic Ono Band with
her son, Sean Lennon, and recent performances have
included a wide assortment of artists, including Kim
Gordon and Thurston Moore, the Scissor Sisters, Lady
Gaga, and Iggy Pop.

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1. Yoko Ono, quoted in Edward
M. Gomez, Music of the Mind from
the Voice of Raw Soul, in Alexandra
Munroe and Jon Hendricks, eds., Yes
Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society
and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), p. 234.

82. Plastic Ono Band. Remember Love/Give Peace a Chance. 1969.


Vinyl single, 7 14 x 7 14" (18.4 x 18.4 cm).
Apple Records (est. 1968)

1969 1971

196

197

PLASTIC ONO BAND

84. Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. Fly. 1971.


Vinyl LP, 12 716 x 12 316" (31.6 x 31 cm). Apple Records (est. 1968).
Photograph: John Lennon

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83. Yoko Ono recording her LP Fly, New York, July 13, 1971.
Photograph: Peter Moore

85. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Imagine. 1971.


Vinyl LP, 12 38 x 12 38" (31.4 x 31.4 cm). Apple Records (est. 1968)
Photograph: Yoko Ono

1969 1971

198

199

BED-INS

BED-INS
1969

Five days after their private wedding ceremony, held in


Gibraltar on March 20, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono
checked into the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel and initiated
a weeklong public honeymoon celebration. They invited
reporters, countercultural figures, artists, and activists
into their suite between the hours of 9 A.M. and 9 P.M.
The title of their event, Bed-In for Peace, played
off of the psychedelic countercultural gatherings dubbed
be-ins and civil-rights-era sit-ins.1 Throughout the
week, Ono and Lennon, dressed in white pajamas, gave
interviews and hosted public discussions about current
political events and the topic of world peace. Handmade
posters reading BAGISM, HAIR PEACE, and BED
PEACE adorned the walls of the hotel room, marrying
messages of peace to evocations of Onos earlier Bag
Piece (1964; pp. 11013) and instruction pieces.
In May of the same year, Lennon and Ono held
another such event, titled Bed-In, at the Queen Elizabeth
Hotel in Montreal. This time, they hired a documentary
film crew to record the conversations. Highlights of
the resultant film, Bed Peace, include a philosophical
exchange with comedian-activist Dick Gregory and a
telephone conversation with student protesters occupying the Berkeley Peoples Park.2 Speaking of her
broadscale public campaigns, Ono stated: We mustnt
be traditional in the way we communicate with people
especially with the Establishment. We should surprise
people by saying new things in an entirely new way.
Communication of that sort can have a fantastic power
so long as you dont do only what they expect you to do.3
Ono and Lennon built upon the media attention
surrounding the Bed-In events to launch their WAR IS
OVER! advertising campaign later that year (pp. 200
203), again using publicity and advertising to spread
their antiwar message on a global scale.

1. Two years earlier, Ono herself


hosted a be-in on a hill in Londons
Hampstead Heath. See Whats
Happening, International Times, no.
14 (June 2, 1967): 15. Her use of the
suffix in may also refer to her 1964
concepts of Insound and Instructure.
See Alexandra Munroe, Spirit of YES:
The Art and Life of Yoko Ono, in Yes
Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society
and Harry N. Abrams, 2000), p. 12.
2. Bed Peace can be viewed
a t h tt p : / / i m a g i n e p e a c e . c o m /
archives/15702. In addition, artist
and filmmaker Jonas Mekas made a
short film about the event; available
at http://jonasmekasfilms.com/40/
film.php?film=11.
3. Yoko Ono, Power to the
People: John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Talk to Robin Blackburn and Tariq
Ali, Red Mole 2, no. 5 (March 822,
1971): 710, available online at http://
imaginepeace.com/archives/2667.

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86. Yoko Ono and John Lennon.
Bed-In. 1969. Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal.
Photograph: Gerry Deiter

1969 1971

200

201

WAR IS OVER!

WAR IS OVER!
1969

On December 15, 1969, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and the


rest of Plastic Ono Supergroup performed in a UNICEF
benefit at Londons Lyceum Ballroom. Posters hung
across the stage and auditorium, emblazoned with the
statement WAR IS OVER!, below which, in smaller letters, If You Want It and Happy Christmas from John &
Yoko were printed. The concert launched an advertising campaign across a range of media, from billboards
and newspaper ads to radio and television spots. The
tagline WAR IS OVER! and the presentation method
evoked attention-grabbing headlines from the end of
World War II. The qualification If You Want It asked readers to imagine their role in ending contemporary conflict,
namely the war in Vietnam.
The project first developed during Ono and
Lennons March 1969 Bed-In for Peace (pp. 19899),
the honeymoon event in which the couple invited activists and journalists to join them in conversations around
their hotel-room bed in Amsterdam. The two artists then
made use of their extensive network to spread the message across twelve cities worldwide: Athens, Berlin,
Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York,
Paris, Port of Spain, Rome, Tokyo, and Toronto. In most
cases, the phrase was presented in the citys official language. In Toronto the words were even drawn in smoke
across the sky from a plane.1
The WAR IS OVER! campaign placed Ono
and Lennons message in dialogue with contemporary
issues. For example, one of their ads appeared in the
December 21, 1969, issue of the New York Times in close
proximity to the Letters to the Editor section, which was
filled with reactions to antiwar protests and the Vietnam
War atrocities that had just come to light.2
Ono had used advertising as an artistic medium
since the mid-1960s, and her partnership with Lennon
helped her realize a longstanding ambition to bring activism to an even broader international public.To this day, Ono
continues to promote world peace by placing messages
WAR IS OVER!, IMAGINE PEACE, and otherson
billboards and in advertisements.

1. Kevin Concannon, War is


Over! John and Yokos Christmas Eve
Happening, Tokyo, 1969, Review of
Japanese Culture and Society 17
(December 2005): 74.
2. The M Lai Massacre
b e c a m e p u b l i c k n ow l e d g e i n
November 1969. Lennon and Ono
later used a notorious image, showing bodies strewn on the ground, for
the cover of the Yoko Ono/Plastic
Ono Band single Now or Never
(1972).

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87. Yoko Ono and John Lennon. WAR IS OVER! 1969.
Offset, 29 1516 x 20" (76 x 50.8 cm)

1969 1971

88. Yoko Ono and John Lennon.


WAR IS OVER! 1969. Billboard installed in Times Square, New York.
Photograph: Peter Moore

202

203

WAR IS OVER!

90. Yoko Ono and John Lennon.


DER KRIEG IST AUS! (WAR IS OVER!). 1969. Posters installed in Berlin.
Photograph: Erich Thomas

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89. Yoko Ono and John Lennon.
FINITA LA GUERRA! (WAR IS OVER!). 1969. Billboard installed
in Rome. Photograph: unknown

91. Yoko Ono and John Lennon. LA GUERRE EST FINIE! (WAR IS OVER!). 1969.
Posters installed on the Avenue des Champs-Elyses, Paris.
Photograph: Agence France Presse

1969 1971

204

205

FLY

FLY
1970

Yoko Onos 1970 film Fly opens with a shot of a blurry


form accompanied by a soft human sound, something
between sighing and singing. A fly comes into focus,
walking across the undulating surfaces of a nude female
body.1 Onos voice, meandering, staccato, and mesmerizing, like the buzzing of the insect, serves as the
soundtrack. Close-up sequences show what appears
to be the same fly as it navigates various areas of the
womans body. As the vocal accompaniment becomes
more chordal and is joined by abstract instrumentals, the
camera zooms out, providing an expanded view of the
womannow seen to be lying on a bed and in fact dotted
with flies. Finally, the camera pans upward to the rooms
window and the dusky cityscape outside.
The film grew out of Onos 1968 film score Fly,
which reads, Let a fly walk on a womans body from toe
to head and fly out of the window,2 suggesting conditions
of both entrapment and liberation. Ono has described
the film in feminist terms, relating it to self-sacrifice as
a strategy for survival: When the camera moves back
a little and shows the whole body then you really dont
know whether the body is a dead body or a live body in
a way. But a live body which is almost simulating a dead
body is what a woman has to go through. This whole
idea of a male society was based on the fact that women
shut up . . . but shutting up is death in a way. So we were
always kind of pretending to be dead.3
The films multilayered soundtrack, made in a
New York hotel room around Christmas 1970, consists
of recordings of Onos vocalizations spliced together
with John Lennons guitar instrumentals responding to
those vocalizations.4 The following year, Ono released
an album titled Fly (pl. 84), including the audio recording
from the film as the last track.
Ono had frequently explored the concept of flies
and flight since the early 1960s, conjuring feelings of
freedom, fear, and revulsion.5 In 1971, flies were central protagonists in her conceptual Museum Of Modern
(F)art project (pp. 20813). In the accompanying catalogue, readers were asked to track the path of flies across
New York Cityan act similar to that of tracing the insects
over the surface of the womans body in Fly.

1. The actress is Virginia Lust.


2. The Fly score came from a
numbered series of scoressome
to be realized by Ono, some to be
carried out by others, and others
that could not realistically be carried
out at all. See Thirteen Film Scores
London, 1968, reprinted in Scott
MacDonald, ed., Screen Writings:
Scripts and Texts by Independent
Filmmakers (Berkeley, Los Angeles,
and London: University of California
Press, 1995), pp. 2130.
3 . Yo ko O n o, te l e p h o n e
interview by Kevin Concannon,
September 4, 1996, quoted in
Kevin Concannon, Sometimes a
Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures:
Yoko Onos Art as a Verb, in Fly
(Richmond: Virginia Commonwealth
University, 1996), p. 13.
4. Ono described the procedure in detail in Yoko Ono, Yoko On
Fly, Crawdaddy, December 5, 1971:
1415.
5 . I n 19 6 3 , O n os B i r t h
Announcement and Announcement
for Grapefruit (pl. 41) included an
insert with Instructions for Poem No.
86, which read simply, Fly. The following year Ono mailed a postcard
inviting people to come prepared to
fly at the Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo.
Visitors were encouraged to interpret the instruction freely, and many
jumped from a ladder in the gallery.
Ono was not present.

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92. Fly. 1970. 16mm film transferred to DVD (color, sound), 25 min.

1969 1971

206

207

FLY

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93 and 94. Fly. 1970. 16mm film transferred to DVD (color, sound), 25 min.

1969 1971

208

209

MUSEUM OF MODERN (F)ART

MUSEUM OF MODERN (F)ART


1971

On November 25 and December 2, 1971, an advertisement appeared in The Village Voice announcing
the Yoko Onoone woman show (p. 23, fig. 3).1 The
ad featured an image taken in front of The Museum of
Modern Art and manipulated by Ono. Carrying a white
shopping bag with a large letter F on it, the artist
appears on the sidewalk under Museum signage
which she had inserted into the imagejust at a break
in the name, irreverently relabeling the institution the
Museum Of Modern (F)art.
The exhibition was advertised as running from
December 1 to 15, 1971. However, when visitors came
to the Museum, the only evidence of Onos show was a
sandwich board worn by a man walking outside of the
entrance, and the Village Voice ad taped to the ticket
window by Museum staff, now inscribed with a handwritten message, THIS IS NOT HERE (p. 26, fig. 6).2 The
sandwich board contained text that described the exhibition. In the Museums sculpture garden, Ono had supposedly placed a glass jar equal in volume to that of her
body and filled with flies scented with the perfume she
wore, Ma Griffe. Noting that the jar had been opened,
the text invited visitors to join Ono in tracking the insects
as they dispersed across the city. A short film, titled The
Museum of Modern Art Show, documented the publics
response.While some were incredulous, others were
moved by the absence of a concrete exhibition, including a man who reflected, The entire world in general can
be a show.
The Village Voice advertisement also included
a mail-order form that readers could send in with one
dollar to receive an exhibition catalogue. The square
white book features a sequence of photographs (taken
by Iain Macmillan and Ono) with arrows purportedly
pointing to the flies as they carried out their migration:
first through the Museums galleries, then through the
streets just outside, and finally across Manhattan and
some of the boroughs. It also includes interactive elements and original texts.
Since the early 1960s, Ono had questioned the
conventions of traditional art venues like The Museum
of Modern Art, proposing new exhibition platforms
from her Chambers Street loft (pp. 4853) and her artists book Grapefruit (pp. 100105) to her DIY dance
festivals (pp. 13637) and advertising pages. In her
one-woman show, Ono, like the surrogate flies, was
at once everywhere and nowhere, existing only in the
imaginations of visitors.

1. An advertisement for the


show also appeared in the New York
Times on November 27, 1971.
2. This message was perhaps
a witty allusion to Onos October
1971 exhibition at the Everson
Museum of Art, Syracuse, N.Y., titled
This Is Not Here.

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95. Museum Of Modern (F)art. 1971.
Exhibition catalogue, offset, 11 1316 x 11 1316 x 38" (30 x 30 x 1 cm).
Publisher: the artist, New York

1969 1971

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211

MUSEUM OF MODERN (F)ART

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96. Spread from Museum Of Modern (F)art. 1971.
Offset, 11 1316 x 23 58" (30 x 60 cm)

1969 1971

212

213

MUSEUM OF MODERN (F)ART

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97. Spread from Museum Of Modern (F)art. 1971.
Offset, 11 1316 x 23 58" (30 x 60 cm)

19691971

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215

YOKO'S VOICE

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE


WORLD AND THE ARTIST?

Many people believe that in this age, art is dead. They despise
the artists who show in galleries and are caught up in the traditional art world. Artists themselves are beginning to lose
their confidence. They dont know whether they are doing something that still has value in this day and age where the social
problems are so vital and critical. I wondered myself about
this. Why am I still an artist? And why am I not joining the
violent revolutionaries? Then I realized that destruction is
not my game. Violent revolutionaries are trying to destroy the
establishment. That is good. But how? By killing? Killing is
such an artless thing. All you need is a coke bottle in your
hand and you can kill. But people who kill that way most often
become the next establishment after theyve killed the old.
Because they are using the same method that the old establishment used to destroy. Violent revolutionaries thinking is
very close to establishment-type thinking and ways of solving
problems.
I like to fight the establishment by using methods that are so
far removed from establishment-type thinking that the establishment doesnt know how to fight back. For instance, they cannot stamp out John and Yoko events Two Virgins, Bed Peace, Acorn
Peace, and War is Over Poster event.
Artists are not here to destroy or to create. Creating is just
as simple and artless a thing to do as destroying. Everyone
on earth has creativity. Even a housewife can create a baby.
Children are just as creative as the people whom society considers artists. Creative artists are just good enough to be considered children. Artists must not create more objects, the world
is full of everything it needs. Im bored with artists who make
big lumps of sculpture and occupy a big space with them and
think they have done something creative and allow people nothing but to applaud the lump. That is sheer narcissism. Why dont
they at least let people touch them? Money and space are wasted
on such projects when there are people starving and people who
dont have enough space to sleep or breathe.
The job of an artist is not to destroy but to change the value
of things. And by doing that, artists can change the world into
a Utopia where there is total freedom for everybody. That can be
achieved only when there is total communication in the world.
Total communication equals peace. That is our aim. That is what
artists can do for the world!
In order to change the value of things, youve got to know about
life and the situation of the world. You have to be more than a
child.
That is the difference between a childs work and an artists
work. That is the difference between an artists work and a
murderers work. We are artists. Artist is just a frame of mind.
Anybody can be an artist. It doesnt involve having a talent.
It involves only having a certain frame of mind, an attitude,
determination, and imagination that springs naturally out of the
necessity of the situation.

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PLASTIC ONO BAND

Yoko Ono. TO MY SISTERS, WITH LOVE (detail). 1971.


Offset, 22 15/16 x 29" (58.3 x 73.7 cm)

19691971

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217

YOKO'S VOICE

Examples of todays living artists:


There was a temple in Japan called the Golden Temple. A man
loved it very much as it was, and he couldnt stand the thought
of anything happening to it. He felt the only way he could stop
anything from happening to it was to burn it down, and he did.
Now, the image of the temple was able to stay forever in his
mind as a perfect form.
There was a man who made a counterfeit one thousand yen. It
circulated with no trouble at all. The man travelled to another
city and circulated another counterfeit one thousand yen. If he
had made lots of counterfeit money he could have been discovered
right away. But he wasnt interested in making lots of money. He
wanted to have fun and play a subtle game. The police went wild
and announced that if anybody found a counterfeit one thousand
yen they would get two thousand yen as a reward if they came to
the police station. This man changed the value of money by his
actions.
In this very same sense, we have artists today whose works
move beyond the gallery space and help change the world: Abby
Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner, for instance, and many others. They radiate something that is sensitive and artistic in
a very renaissance sense, when the majority of so-called artists these days are hardcore businessmen. Message is the medium.
There are only two classes left in our society. The class who
communicates and the class who doesnt. Tomorrow I hope there
will be just one. Total communication equals peace.
Men can destroy/Women can create/Artists revalue.
Y.O., Cannes Film Festival, May, 1971

THE FEMINIZATION OF OUR SOCIETY

The aim of the feminist movement should not just end with getting more jobs in the existing society, though we should definitely work on that as well. We have to keep on going until the
whole of the female race is freed.
How are we going to go about this? This society is the very
society that killed female freedom: the society that was built
on female slavery. If we try to achieve our freedom within the
framework of the existing social set-up, men, who run the society, will continue to make a token gesture of giving us a place
in their world. Some of us will succeed in moving into elitist jobs, kicking our sisters on the way up. Others will resort
to producing babies, or being conned into thinking that joining
male perversions and madness is what equality is about: join
the army join the sexist trip, etc.
The ultimate goal of female liberation is not just to escape
from male oppression. How about liberating ourselves from our
various mind trips such as ignorance, greed, masochism, fear of
God and social conventions? Its hard to so easily dismiss the
importance of paternal influence in this society, at this time.
Since we face the reality that, in this global village, there
is very little choice but to coexist with men, we might as well
find a way to do it and do it well.
We definitely need more positive participation by men in the
care of our children. But how are we going to do this? We have
to demand it. James Baldwin has said of this problem, I cant
give a performance all day in the office and come back and give
a performance at home. Hes right. How can we expect men to
share the responsibility of childcare in the present social
conditions where his job in the office is, to him, a mere performance and where he cannot relate to the role of childcare
except as yet another performance? Contemporary men must go
through major changes in their thinking before they volunteer to
look after children, and before they even start to want to care.
Childcare is the most important issue for the future of our
generation. It is no longer a pleasure for the majority of men
and women in our society, because the whole society is geared
towards living up to a Hollywood-cum-Madison Avenue image of
men and women, and a way of life that has nothing to do with
childcare. We are in a serious identity crisis. This society is
driven by neurotic speed and force accelerated by greed, and
frustration of not being able to live up to the image of men and
women we have created for ourselves; the image has nothing to
do with the reality of people. How could we be an eternal James
Bond or Twiggy (false eyelashes, the never-had-a-baby-or-a-fullmeal look) and raise three kids on the side? In such an imagedriven culture, a piece of reality, such as a child, becomes a
direct threat to our false existence.
The only game we play together with our children is star-chasing;
sadly, not the stars in the sky, but the STARS who we think
have achieved the standard of the dream image we have imposed
on the human race. We cannot trust ourselves anymore, because we
know that we are, well . . . too real. We are forever apologetic
for being real. Excuse me for farting, excuse me for making love
and smelling like a human being, instead of that odorless celluloid prince and princess image up there on the screen.

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Drawing published in Museum Of Modern (F)art. 1971

19691971

Most of us, as women, hope that we can achieve our freedom


within the existing social set-up, thinking that, somewhere,
there must be a happy medium for men and women to share freedom and responsibility. But if we just took the time to observe
the very function of our society, the greed-power-frustration
syndrome, we would soon see that there is no happy medium to be
achieved. We can, of course, aim to play the same game that men
have played for centuries, and inch by inch, take over all the
best jobs and eventually conquer the whole world, leaving an
extremely bitter male stud-cum-slave class moaning and groaning
underneath us. This is alright for an afternoon dream, but in
reality, it would obviously be a drag.
Just as the blacks have in the past, women are going through an
initial stage of revolution now. We are now at a stage where
we are eager to compete with men on all levels. But women will
inevitably arrive at the next stage, and realize the futility
of trying to be like men. Women will realize themselves as they
are, and not as beings comparative to or in response to men. As
a result, the feminist revolution will take a more positive step
in the society by offering a feminine direction.
In their past two thousand years of effort, men have shown us
their failure in their method of running the world. Instead of
falling into the same trap that men fell into, women can offer
something that the society never had before because of male dominance. That is the feminine direction. What we can do is to take
the current society, which contains both masculine and feminine
characteristics, and bring out its feminine nature rather than
its masculine force which is now at work. We must make more
positive usage of the feminine tendencies of the society which,
up to now, have been either suppressed or dismissed as something
harmful, impractical, irrelevant and ultimately shameful.
I am proposing the feminization of society; the use of feminine
nature as a positive force to change the world. We can change
ourselves with feminine intelligence and awareness, into a basically organic, noncompetitive society that is based on love,
rather than reasoning. The result will be a society of balance,
peace and contentment. We can evolve rather than revolt, come
together, rather than claim independence, and feel rather than
think. These are characteristics that are considered feminine;
characteristics that men despise in women. But have men really
done so well by avoiding the development of these characteristics within themselves?
Already, as I catch a glimpse of the new world, I see feminine wisdom working as a positive force. I refer to the feminine wisdom and awareness which is based on reality, intuition
and empirical thinking, rather than logistics and ideologies.
The entire youth generation, their idiom and their dreams, are
headed in a feminine direction. A more advanced field of communication, such as telepathy, is also a phenomenon which can only
be developed in a highly feminine climate. The problem is that
feminine tendency in the society has never been given a chance
to blossom, whereas masculine tendency overwhelms it.
What we need now is the patience and natural wisdom of a
pregnant woman, an awareness and acceptance of our natural
resources, or what is left of them. Lets not kid ourselves and
think of ourselves as an old and matured civilization. We are by
no means mature. But that is alright. That is beautiful. Lets
slow down and try to grow as organically, and healthfully as a
newborn infant. The aim of the female revolution will have to
be a total one, eventually making it a revolution for the whole
world. As mothers of the tribe, we share the guilt of the male
chauvinists, and our faces are their mirrors as well. Its good
to start now, since its never too late to start from the start.

218

219

YOKO'S VOICE

FEELING THE SPACE


1973

A man came up to me and said May I shake hands with the hand
that shook hands with John Lennon? I said, Well, weve done
a lot of things in our time but we havent got around to doing
that yetso what are you going to do about that? He just mumbled, sort of, and shook my hand anyway. Hey, yoke, yoki, yoyo,
yoho! A is for Anger, B is for Brute, C is for Cunning, D is for
Death. Actually, Im a Lenny Bruce married to Greta Garbo, if
you must know. Two people in love never shake hands.
The shortest distance between two dots is a direct line. Direct
line is out of order. Snow in New York City in our heads.
Central Park is still summer. The air smells wise and tender.
It surrounds me without giving me any pressure like a kind
friend. It makes me feel innocent again. I was never able to
get hold of my mother without touching her manicure and fur. My
father had a huge desk in front of him that separated us permanently. There was always such a space around me. I would play
sitting in the deep gaps between tall and fat chairs. I never
liked ringing the service bell because it often made me realize
that there was nobody at the other end.
In the middle of the night I wake up in the dark. Is this Tokyo,
London, where is it? It doesnt seem to matter as long as its
on this globe. Would I care if it was on the moon? Yes, I think
I would be lonelier then though I dont know why. Sometimes the
moon looks closer than Tokyo. What would happen if I called my
mother now. Would I hit her manicure again?
The phone is glowing in the dark like an entrance to a mysterious space. Is there anything that is real I would hit if I
reached into space through that wire? Shall I call my cousin?
What time is it in Paris? I might wake up the woman he is with.
Curse the day when I was taught to be considerate its so much
like death. But that was decades ago. Now theres nobody in
Paris to call.
I think of this friend and that friend. I want to call them and
tell them how beautiful they are, how much I love them, how much
I care for themand, that when I said this, I actually meant
that. What I really wanted to say wasbut I just couldntand if
I hadif I hadWhy is calling somebody such a difficult thing
to do? They say if you write your thoughts down on paper you
dont have to send it. They get the message anyway. Shall I do
that? I doze off for awhile. Im up again at dawn. I feel something strange is happening that I cant put my finger on. At
the breakfast table, I find that one of the friends I wished to
call had died during the night. What if I had called and spoken
to her? Would it have changed anything? Things that I wanted to
tell hertheyll never be resolved now. Never is a long time.
Maybe death has resolved it all.
Dont leave me words, they haunt me. Leave me your coat to keep
me warm. I like secondhand clothes because that is like wearing
a person.

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Yoko Ono, 1971

I miss you. Ive written twenty letters to you in my mind but


never mailed them. Anyway, I dont know your address. I dont
even know your name. And if you do exist, why should you care
about me? an electric fan.

19691971

220

221

YOKO'S VOICE

A musician came up to me and said he was very glad to work with


me, because he liked foreigners. Foreigners? I mean, foreign
people, specially the Oriental people. I was going to snap back
and say, Well, I like to work with foreigners, too. but then
the whole thing suddenly hit me as being so funny, and I just
said something to thank him for liking to work with foreigners.
Its hard to remember about your slanted eyes and your skin in
the melting pot of a recording session, but I suppose that is the
first thing that hits them when they try to communicate. That
Jap. You never know what shes thinking. Next time you meet a
foreigner, remember its only like a window with a little different shape to it and the person whos sitting inside is you.
Anyway, in my mind Im a singing Sylvia Plath, half her head out
of the gas stove still looking for a pencil to write her last
beauty.
In the evening I watch the city lights from my apartment that
hangs in the air, and become overwhelmed with the incredibility
of it all. Behind each shining dot, there is a room, an apartment, a person or people who are all having a life show of their
own. Every persons life can be a book thicker than an encyclopedia and still you couldnt explain all that they took to survive.
I would probably not meet even 1/1000th of those people. The odds
of not meeting in this life are so great that every meeting is
like a miracle. Its a wonder that we dont make love to every
single person we meet in our life. We take meetings like riding a cab. You know that you would probably never meet the driver
again. Yet if the car crashed, that driver is the person you are
going to die with. In fact, your life is in the drivers hands
while youre in the car. But when you get to the destination, you
give a bit of metal and slam the door behind you.
When Im on the stage, I freak out thinking about the strangeness
of the gathering. In four hours or so, all the seats would be
empty again. In ten years nobody would remember that these people
were here, or it wouldnt matter to anybody. In a hundred years,
they would all be dead.
People say that for the last five years I had been a hate object
of the world. It was sort of fashionable to put me down. You
dont hurt me though, because I know you and I love you. I can
take hatred, because I dont believe that people are capable of
real hate. We are too lonely for that. We vanish too quickly for
that. Do you ever hate a cloud? How could anyone hate people who
are on their deathbeds? Thats where we all are since the day of
birth.
Hate is just an awkward way of love. We spit on people when we
want to kiss them. We hit them when we only want to be held. We
talk about misunderstanding and hurt. But how could we hurt or
misunderstand each other when we are so much alike, when we are
the only people who share this world for this decade, this year,
this day, under the same sky? Deep down inside, and far outside,
none of us really misunderstand anything. We dont miss a trick.
We know. But we all pretend, to ourselves and to others, that we
dont.
All we have to do is just admire each other and love each other
24 hours a day until we vanish. Thats what we really want to do.
The rest is just foreplay to get to that.
I told er she should quit workin now, ya naw, now that shes
married. An you know what that bitch said, she said would you
quit working if you ever got married? I mean, whats gonna
appen to the music industry? In my mind Im really an eternal
sphinx.

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Shake my hand for what its worth. There is a wind that never
dies.
y.o.n.y. aug. 73

Strawberryfields Forever. Text by Yoko Ono placed


in the New York Times. August 28, 1981

19691971

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223

YOKO'S VOICE

UNCOVER

Lets quickly assemble the knowledge we have. We ourselves must be


peaceful to get peace. Once we follow that logic, and clear our minds
of anger, hatred, fear and violence, we can see what we were doing
wrong.
We are being given the option of having a peaceful world or a violent
one. And we keep choosing the violent world, when we actually want the
other. Why?
That is because in our hearts of hearts, we are more attracted to violence. Violence comes with power. We want that power without getting
violence. We are attracted to the idea of achievement. We want to be
able to say, we are on the road of DISCOVERY. The word DISCOVERY has a
powerful tone. I am here to discover something in life. Its a prestigious position to be in. My son discovered a planet.
But actually, we are not discovering anything. We are just uncovering
what is there already. Everything that is around us all has miracles
inside, if you just uncover them. But uncovering does not come with
prestige. You dont get an award for uncovering things. To discover
something, you may need a special skill, even some credentials. You
may have to compete with a fellow man to achieve it. Uncovering can be
done even by your teenage son. So you may still prefer the drama of
discovering. Since theres no glory in uncovering.
We are playing the same game to get world peace. One day, I pushed a
huge elephant to the water to quench its thirst. I pushed and pushed.
But the elephant did not move an inch. Will I keep pushing until I
die? Maybe I will get a bravery award for trying. Which do I want, an
award or a peaceful world? Of course, a peaceful world. Am I sure? If
its something we cannot ever get, shall I just keep waving the flag?
World Peace is right in front of our eyes like the biggest billboard
in the world. Its still there.
Forget pushing the elephant. Instead of changing the world, we should
change our heads. That we can do. Our heads are on our shoulders not
something that is in the horizon.
Once we change our heads, we will see that the world peace will
reign on us without us even lifting our fingers. We are animals with
wits. In terms of power, wits are the only thing we were given.
That is what we are. So when we exercise our wits, we can do anything.
We use our wits instead of our energy. And the elephants, the birds
and the mountains will all surround us and say thank you for changing
your heads.
I saw thousands and thousands of elephants in tears. We were too. We
were just in time. It took only 7 seconds to make the change. Because
it was the right change, it didnt take long.
All we had to do was to pave all highways of the planet with solar
powered panels so there will be no more need for fighting for oil and
gas. It will stop all wars.... and use stem cells to heal.

DON'T STOP ME!

At my age I should be in a certain way. Please dont stop me the


way I am. I dont want to be old and sick like many others of my
age. Please dont create another old person.
So even when I am rocking on the stage, they are totally hard on
me. They demand the musical standard of a classical musician and
attack me for the rhythm or some of the notes which are not precisely in tune. I am not concerned with what my voice is doing.
If I was, what you experience would not be. If I was concerned
about it, in the way you are asking me to be, my voice would be
dead. Go to a classical concert if you want to hear a trained
voice. What I escaped from when I was very, very young. I created my own niche. If I tried to present you with classical
music it wouldnt be what I created. You dont get it that way
with Iggy for instance, a grand rocker, who is creating his own
brand of Rock, just as I am.
Let me be free. Let me be me! Dont make me old, with your
thinking and words about how I should be. You dont have to
come to my shows. I am giving tremendous energy with my voice,
because that is me. Get my energy or shut up.
A critic of my show I did on my 80th birthday. You wanted me to
be coming in at the same time on the top of the bars with the
tracks. Well, I like to syncopate my voice to come in before or
after the music notes not right on top of the tracks, you see.
Thats done in classical music, also. Remember? Yes. I dont
mind using what I learnt from classical music.
Just let me be free, so music will come out as my voice in the
way it wants. Otherwise, it will not be beautiful. My music has
an unworldly beauty. It is a mixture of all the generations I
went through on this planet: when I was born seeing the world
with wonderment, when I was a wise infant, full of original
ideas with not too much intimidation yet, when I was a energetic
and rebellious teenager, when i was a sexy twenties, thirties,
forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and now. Plus all the folk
music of the world, voices of the people, never intimidated and plus some of the music coming from another planet or planets! I respect that, cherish it, and am always thankful of each
note by note that comes into me and out of me.
Another criticism: That my short pants in my video BAD DANCER
were very short. was that bad? You are not criticizing other
dancers whose pants are worn short. Do you have a separate standard for a person of my age, even in the way our outfits are
cut?
I am afraid of just one thing. That those ageism criticisms
might finally influence me; that I would succumb to it and get
old. So I am covering my ears not to listen to you guys! Because
dancing in the middle of an ageism society is a lonely trip.
Dont stone me! Let me be! Love me plenty for what I am!

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Uncover, not discover.


Small change we have to make.
But its worth it.
Yoko Ono
23 July 2014, Tokyo, Japan

Yoko Ono
November 9th, 2014, NYC

1969
1969
1971

224

225

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Jamie Mandelkau, and William Bloom, Interview Piece: Yoko Ono &
Grapefruit, International Times 1, no. 110 (August 1226, 1971): 11, 15.

1969
1969
1971

226

227

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Jamie Mandelkau, and William Bloom, Interview Piece: Yoko Ono &
Grapefruit, International Times 1, no. 110 (August 1226, 1971): 20.

Lawrence Alloway, Art, The Nation


Nation,
, November 8, 1971: 47778.

1969
1969
1971

228

229

SELECTED PRESS CLIPPINGS

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Donald Singleton, Yoko Ono: The Princess of Pop!, Daily News


News,
,
November 22, 1971, 44 and overlay.

231

WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION

A number of works, such as Touch Poem


for Group of People (1963; pl. 32) and Bag
Piece (1964; pp. 11013), will be performed
with the participation of the public and are
not noted on this selected checklist. The
checklist also does not include various
ephemera, albums, and new realizations or
interventions carried out by Yoko Ono on
the occasion of the exhibition.

WORKS BY YOKO ONO

Touch Poem #5. c. 1960 (plates 7, 8)


Human hair, cut-and-pasted paper,
and ink on paper, open 9 78 x 13 716" (25 x
34.1 cm); closed 9 78 x 6 78" (25 x 17.5 cm)
Private collection
Instruction for Painting in Three Stanzas.
1961 (plate 12)
Handwritten by Toshi Ichiyanagi
Ink on the back of an AG Gallery program
announcement card, 3 38 x 10 58"
(8.5 x 27 cm)
Private collection
Painting Until It Becomes Marble. 1961
(plates 17, 18)
Ink on paper, unfolded 6 14 x 9' 3 1316"
(15.9 x 284 cm); folded 6 14 x 4 14" (15.9 x
10.8 cm)
Private collection
A Plus B Painting and Smoke Painting.
1961
Burned cardboard with magazine clipping
adhered to verso, 6 1316 x 4 12" (17.3 x
11.4 cm)
Private collection
Sky Machine. 1961/1966 (plates 57, 58)
Stainless steel dispenser, stainless steel
pedestal, and cards with graphite inscriptions, 51 316 x 16 18 x 16 18" (130 x 41 x
41 cm); each card 1 x 1 34 (2.5 x 4.5 cm).
Inscription: WORD MACHINE PIECE #1
SKY MACHINE BY YOKO ONO 1961,
REALIZED BY ANTHONY COX 1966
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

Add Color Painting. 1961/1966 (plate 69)


Paint, newspaper, and foil on canvas,
15 1516 x 15 1516" (40.5 x 40.5 cm)
Private collection
Painting to Hammer a Nail. 1961/1966
Painted wood panel, nails, metal chain,
and painted hammer, 13 34 x 10 12 x
4 12" (34.9 x 26.6 x 11.4 cm)
Private collection
Instructions for Paintings. 1962
Twenty-two works corresponding to the
following instructions by Yoko Ono:
Painting for a Broken Sewing
Machine.1961 winter
Painting to Be Constructed In Your
Head. 1961 winter
(Look through a phone book
from the . . . )
Painting to Hammer a Nail. 1961
winter (plate 31)
Painting for the Buriel. 1961 summer
Painting for the Wind. 1961 summer
Painting in Three Stanzas. 1961
summer (plate 30)
Painting to Enlarge and See. 1961
summer
Painting to Let the Evening Light
Go Through.
1961 summer
Painting to See the Sky. 1961
summer
Painting Until It Becomes Marble.
1961 summer
Smoke Painting. 1961 summer
(plate 29)
A Plus B Painting. 1961 autumn
(Cut out a circle on
canvas A . . . )
A Plus B Painting. 1961 autumn
(Let somebody other than
yourself cut out . . . )
Painting to See the Room. 1961
autumn
Painting to Shake Hands. 1961
autumn
Waterdrop Painting. 1961 autumn
Painting to Be Constructed In Your
Head. 1962 spring
(Observe three paintings
carefully . . . )
Painting to Be Constructed In Your
Head. 1962 spring
(Imagine dividing the canvas
into twenty . . . )

Painting to Be Constructed In Your


Head. 1962 spring
(Hammer a nail in the center
of a piece . . . )
Painting to Be Constructed In Your
Head. 1962 spring
(Go on transforming a
square canvas . . . )
Portrait of Mary. 1962 spring
(Send a canvas to a Mary of
any country . . . )
Painting to See the Sky. 1962
(plate 28)
Handwritten by Toshi Ichiyanagi
Ink on paper, each 9 1316 x 14 1516"
(25 x 38 cm)
Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman Collection,
Detroit
Pieces for Orchestra to La Monte Young.
1962/1965
Ballpoint pen on cardstock, and transfer
type and graphite on four boards,
card 3 116 x 4 1516" (7.7 x 12.6 cm);
sheet (TEAR) 3 316 x 3 916" (8.1 x
9.1 cm); sheet (RUB) 3 18 x 3 14"
(7.9 x 8.3 cm); sheet (PEEL) 3 516 x 3 34"
(8.4 x 9.6 cm); sheet (TAKE OFF)
3 18 x 5 14" (8 x 13.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Soundtape of the Snow Falling at Dawn.
1963/1965
Audiotape, metal container, and offset, container (closed) 34 x 1 1516" (1.8 x 5 cm)
Collection Jon and Joanne Hendricks
Birth Announcement and Announcement
for Grapefruit. 1963 (plate 41)
Five offset sheets mailed in envelope,
envelope 3 14 x 7 1516" (8.3 x 20.2 cm);
sheet (Grapefruit) 14 316 x 9 1516" (36 x
25.3 cm); sheet (No. 81) 9 116 x 2 516"
(23 x 5.9 cm); sheet (first performed by . . . )
9 116 x 2 516" (23 x 5.9 cm); sheet
(No. 86) 9 116 x 2 316" (23 x 5.6 cm);
sheet (the price of the book . . . )
9 116 x 2 1116" (23 x 6.8 cm)
Private collection

PDF Released to Billy Heller for Review Consideration Only


Not Intended for Publication or Wide Distribution

Typescript for Grapefruit. 196364


One hundred fifty-one typewritten cards,
some with ink additions, each 5 12 x 4 18"
(14 x 10.5 cm)
Private collection

YOKO ONO: ONE WOMAN SHOW, 19601971

Cut Piece. 1964


Film by David and Albert Maysles.
Performance by the artist, Carnegie Recital
Hall, New York. 1965
16mm film transferred to DVD (black-andwhite, sound), 9:10 min.
Private collection

Grapefruit. 1964 (plate 42)


Artists book, offset, each page 5 716 x
5 716" (13.8 x 13.8 cm); overall (closed)
5 716 x 5 716 x 1 14" (13.8 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm).
Publisher: Wunternaum Press (the artist),
Tokyo. Edition: 500
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

Self Portrait. 1965


Envelope with graphite and stamped ink,
containing metal mirror, envelope 2 716 x
4 14" (6.2 x 10.8 cm); mirror 1 1516 x 1 1516"
(4.9 x 5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

Piece for Nam June Paik no. 1. 1964


Ink on paper, 11 x 8 916" (28 x 21.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
English notice for Morning Piece. 1964
(plate 33)
Ink on paper, 11 58 x 8 14" (29.5 x 21 cm)
Private collection

Typescript for Do It Yourself Fluxfest


Presents Yoko Ono & Dance Co. c. 1965
Thirteen typed sheets (twelve originals
and one inkjet reproduction), pen additions
by George Maciunas and Yoko Ono, some
with cut-and-pasted paper, each approx.
8 1116 x 5 916" (22.1 x 14.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

Japanese notice for Morning Piece. 1964


Ink on paper, 11 58 x 8 14" (29.5 x 21 cm)
Private collection
Sign used in Morning Piece. 1964
(plate 35)
Ink on paper, 10 x 14 316" (25.4 x 36 cm)
Private collection
Morning Piece. 1964 (plate 36)
Future mornings:
May 24, 1972, until sunrise
May 24, 1972, all morning
February 3, 1987, until sunrise
February 3, 1987, after sunrise
February 4, 1987, until sunrise
February 4, 1987, all morning
February 18, 1991, until sunrise
March 3, 1991, until sunrise
March 3, 1991, after sunrise
August 3, 1995, until sunrise
August 3, 1995, all morning
September 8, 1995, after sunrise
September 8, 1995, all morning
November 16, 1996, after sunrise
December 27, 1999, until sunrise
December 27, 1999, after sunrise
December 27, 1999, all morning
Glass, paper, ink, and glue, dimensions vary
Private collection

Do It Yourself Fluxfest Presents Yoko Ono &


Dance Co. 1966 (plate 59)
Designed and produced by George
Maciunas
Offset, 22 116 x 16 1516" (56 x 43 cm).
Publisher: Fluxus Edition
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Do It Yourself Fluxfest Presents
Yoko Ono & Dance Co. 1966
Designed and produced by George
Maciunas
Plastic box with twenty offset cards, box
4 516 x 4 116 x 12" (11 x 10.3 x 1.3 cm);
each card 4 x 4 (10.1 x 10.1 cm).
Publisher: Fluxus Edition
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

NIGHT AIR JUNE 16 1964. 1964


Glass bottle with ink-on-paper label,
6 14 x 1316" (15.8 x 2.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

Match Piece (or No. 1). 1966


Realization of the instruction Lighting
Piece, 1955
16mm film transferred to DVD
(black-and-white, silent), 5 min.
Included in the Fluxfilm Anthology
compiled by George Maciunas in 1966
Private collection

NIGHT AIR JULY 3 NIGHT 1964. 1964


Glass bottle with ink-on-paper label,
6 716 x 1316" (16.4 x 2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

Eyeblink. 1966
16mm film transferred to DVD
(black-and-white, silent), 35 sec.
Included in the Fluxfilm Anthology
compiled by George Maciunas in 1966
Private collection

232
White Chess Set. 1966 (plate 71)
Wooden table, two chairs, and chess set,
all painted white, 30 516 x 24 116 x 24 116"
(77 x 61.1 x 61.1 cm)
museum moderner kunst stiftung
ludwig wien
Ceiling Painting. 1966 (plate 72)
Painted ladder, label, metal chain,
magnifying glass, and framed ink on paper,
ladder 71 1516 x 19 14 x 47 12" (182.8 x
48.9 x 120.6 cm); framed ink on paper
3 4 x 25 1 2 x
22 316" (2 x 64.8 x 56.4 cm)
Private collection
Forget It. 1966
Engraved Plexiglas pedestal and stainless
steel needle, pedestal 49 1316 x 12 x 12"
(126.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm); needle 3 14"
(8.2 cm)
Private collection
9 Concert Pieces for John Cage. 1966
Ink on paper, fifteen sheets, each 10 14 x
7 78" (26 x 20 cm)
John Cage Notations Collection,
Northwestern University Library
Mend Piece. 1966/1968
Broken cup, tube of glue, ink on paper,
and ink on collaged box, dimensions vary
upon installation
Collection Jon and Joanne Hendricks
Sky TV. 1966/2015
Camera, television, and closed-circuit
wiring, dimensions vary upon installation
Private collection
Film No. 4. 19661967 (plate 75)
16mm film transferred to DVD
(black-and-white, sound), 80 min.
Private collection
Wrapping Event. 1967
16mm film transferred to DVD
(color, soundtrack absent), 26 min.
Private collection
Three Spoons. 1967 (plate 66)
Plexiglas pedestal, silver plaque, and four
silver spoons, pedestal 55 x 11 14 x 11 14"
(139.7 x 28.5 x 28.5 cm)
Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman Collection,
Detroit
Half-A-Room. 1967 (plate 79)
Domestic objects cut in half, most painted
white, dimensions vary upon installation
Private collection
Glass Keys to Open the Skies. 1967
Four glass keys and Plexiglas box
with brass hinges, box 7 12 x 10 x 1 12"
(19.1 x 25.4 x 3.8 cm)
Private collection

233

WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION

A Box of Smile. 1967


Engraved sterling silver box with mirror,
2 1116 x 2 12 x 2 12" (6.8 x 6.4 x 6.4 cm)
Private collection

SELECTED EPHEMERA

A Box of Smile. 1967/1971


Engraved plastic box with mirror, 2 38 x
2 18 x 2 18" (6 x 5.4 x 5.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
A Box of Smile. 1967/1971
Engraved wooden box with mirror, 4 1316 x
4 1316 x 2 12" (12.2 x 12.2 x 6.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Film No. 5 (Smile). 1968
16mm film transferred to DVD (color,
sound), 51 min.
Private collection
Fly. 1970 (plates 9294)
16mm film transferred to DVD (color,
sound), 25 min.
Private collection
The Museum of Modern Art Show. 1971
16mm film transferred to DVD (color,
sound), 7 min.
Private collection
Museum Of Modern (F)art. 1971
(plates 9597)
Exhibition catalogue, offset, 11 1316 x
11 1316 x 38" (30 x 30 x 1 cm). Publisher:
the artist, New York
The Museum of Modern Art Library,
New York

WORKS BY
YOKO ONO AND JOHN LENNON

Air Bottles. 1967


Half-A-Letter
Half-A-Shoe
Half-A-Painting
Half-A-Jacket
Half-A-Door
Half-A-Cupboard
Half-A-Music
Half-A-Wind
Half-A-Life
Glass jars with ink-on-paper labels,
dimensions vary
Private collection
Bed-In. 1969
16mm film transferred to DVD (color,
sound), 70:56 min.
Private collection

Poster for Paintings & Drawings by Yoko


Ono, AG Gallery, New York. 1961 (plate 10)
Designed by Yoko Ono and
George Maciunas
Offset, 8 x 10 316" (20.3 x 25.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Photograph conceived as poster for
Works by Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall,
New York. 1961 (p. 12)
Poster by Yoko Ono. Photograph by
George Maciunas
Gelatin silver print, 9 1516 x 7 1516"
(25.3 x 20.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Program flier for Works by Yoko Ono,
Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. 1961
(plates 19, 20)
Designed by Yoko Ono and incorporating
photograph by Minoru Niizuma
Offset, 5 12 x 8 12" (13.9 x 21.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art Archives,
New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman
Fluxus Collection Archives, I.936
Invitation to Works of Yoko Ono, Sgetsu
Art Center, Tokyo. 1962 (plate 23)
Designed by Yoko Ono
Offset and letterpress with beansprout,
18 34 x 4 12" (47.6 x 11.4 cm)
Kei University Art Center and Archives,
Tokyo
Invitation to Works of Yoko Ono, Sgetsu
Art Center, Tokyo. 1962
Designed by Yoko Ono
Offset and letterpress, 18 34 x 4 12"
(47.6 x 11.4 cm)
Private collection

Flier for New Works of Yoko Ono, Carnegie


Recital Hall, New York. 1965
Offset, 11 x 8 12" (27.9 x 21.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art Archives,
New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman
Fluxus Collection Archives, I.936
Program for New Works of Yoko Ono,
Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. 1965
Designed by Yoko Ono
Offset, 11 x 5 516" (28 x 13.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Announcement for Morning Piece (1964)
to George Maciunas, roof of Yoko Onos
apartment building, New York. 1965
(plate 37)
Designed by George Maciunas
Offset, 8 916 x 11" (21.8 x 27.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Poster for DIAS Presents Two Evenings
with Yoko Ono, Africa Centre, London.
1966 (plate 67)
Offset, 23 12 x 17 1516" (59.7 x 45.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008
Poster for showing of Film No. 4, JaceyTatler, London. 1967 (plate 74)
Designed by Yoko Ono
Offset, 13 x 8" (33 x 20.3 cm)
Private collection
Invitation to preview of Yoko Ono Half-AWind Show, Lisson Gallery, London. 1967
Designed by Yoko Ono
Offset, 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Private collection

Poster for Contemporary American


Avant-Garde Music Concert: Insound and
Instructure, Yamaichi Hall, Kyoto. 1964
Designed by Yoko Ono
Offset, 38 58 x 15" (98.1 x 38.1 cm)
Private collection
Tickets for Three Kyoto Events:
Contemporary American Avant-Garde
Music Concert: Insound and Instructure,
Yamaichi Hall; Evening till Dawn, Nanzenji
Temple; Symposium: !, French Cancan
Coffee House. 1964 (plate 22)
Designed by Yoko Ono
Four offset sheets with ink stamps,
each 2 78 x 9 1516" (7.3 x 25.2 cm)
Private collection

PDF Released to Billy Heller for Review Consideration Only


Not Intended for Publication or Wide Distribution
Apple. 1966 (plate 70)
Plexiglas pedestal, brass plaque, and
apple, pedestal 45 x 6 1116 x 6 1516"
(114.3 x 17 x 17.6 cm)
Private collection

WAR IS OVER! 1969 (plate 87)


Offset, 29 1516 x 20" (76 x 50.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection Gift, 2008

234

235
Hendricks, Jon, and Birgit Hessellund, eds.
Yoko Ono: En Trance. Randers, Denmark:
Randers Kunstmuseum, 1990.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hendricks, Jon, David D. J. Rau, and


Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono: Glimpse. Bloomfield
Hills, Mich.: Cranbrook Academy of Art
Museum, 1993.
Hendricks, Jon, and Pablo J. Rico, eds.
Yoko Ono: En TranceEx It. Valencia,
Spain: Consorci de Museus de
la Comunitat Valenciana, 1997.

This bibliography represents a selection of


texts and publications that we consulted
while researching Yoko Onos work. For
a comprehensive bibliography, including
the many articles by and interviews with
the artist, see Alexandra Munroe and Jon
Hendrickss book Yes Yoko Ono (full details
below), which also contains reprints of a
number of Onos self-published works.

BOOKS AND OTHER


WRITINGS BY YOKO ONO
In chronological order

This Is Not Here: A Show of Unfinished


Paintings and Sculpture. Syracuse,
N.Y.: Everson Museum of Art, 1971.
What Is the Relationship between the
World and the Artist? In This Is Not Here
(see previous entry).
Museum Of Modern (F)art. New York:
self-published, 1971.
The Feminization of Society. New York
Times, February 23, 1972. Unabridged
version published in SunDance, AprilMay
1972. The version published in the
present catalogue first appeared in a
slightly different form as liner notes for Yoko
Ono, Approximately Infinite Universe, two
LPs, Apple Records SVBB 3399, 1973.

Words of a Fabricator. SAC Journal,


no. 24 (May 1962): n.p.
Six Film Scripts by Yoko Ono. Tokyo:
self-published, 1964.

Yoko Ono: Instruction Paintings. New York


and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1995.

Grapefruit. Tokyo: Wunternaum Press,


1964.
Onos Sales List. Self-published, 1965.
To the Wesleyan People. Insert in Judson
Gallery Presents The Stone by Anthony
Cox, Sound Forms by Michael Mason,
Eye Bags by Yoko Ono, Film Message
by Jeff Perkins, Air: Jon Hendricks.
New York: Judson Gallery, 1966: n.p.
Yoko Ono Talk Delivered at the
Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS)
in London, September 1966. Transcript
published in Kerry Brougher and Russell
Ferguson, eds., Damage Control: Art and
Destruction Since 1950. Washington, D.C.:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Smithsonian Institution, 2014, pp. 8081.
YOKO at INDICA. London: Indica Gallery,
1966.
Some Notes on the Lisson Gallery Show.
In Yoko Ono Half-A-Wind Show. London:
Lisson Gallery, 1967, pp. 12.

Yoko Ono: Spare Room. New York:


Wunternaum Press; with the support of
Paris: Paris Muses, 2003. Published
in conjunction with the exhibition Yoko
OnoWomens Room at the Muse dArt
Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

On Paper. In Anthony Barnett, ed.,


Nothing Doing in London Two. London:
Curwen Press, 1968, n.p.

Hendricks, Jon, Pablo J. Rico, and Samuel


Havadtoy, eds. Yoko Ono: Ebro. Zaragoza,
Spain: Diputacin de Zaragoza, 2000.

Crutchfield, Jean, ed.. Yoko Ono: Fly.


Richmond, Va.: Anderson Gallery, 1996.

Hendricks, Jon, Pablo J. Rico, and Samuel


Havadtoy, eds. Yoko Ono: Tajo. Mrida,
Spain: Consejera de Cultura de la Junta
de Extremadura, 2000; Cceres, Spain:
Museum Vostell Malpartida.

Concannon, Kevin, ed. Imagine Peace.


Akron, Ohio: University of Akron, 2007.
Family Album. Berlin: Stiftung Starke;
Budapest: Galeria 56, 1993.
Haraldsson, Haukur, ed. IMAGINE PEACE
TOWER. Reykjavk: Iceland Post, 2008.
Haskell, Barbara, and John G. Hanhardt,
eds. Yoko Ono: Objects, Films. New York:
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1989.
Hendricks, Jon, ed.. Conceptual
Photography. Copenhagen: Fotografisk
Center; Gothenburg: Konsthallen
Gteborg, 1997.
, ed. Yoko Ono: In Facing. London:
Riverside Studios; Brighton, UK: Elwick
Grover Aicken, 1990.

Yoko Ono: The Other Rooms. New York:


Wunternaum Press; Milan: Charta, 2009.
Published in conjunction with the exhibition
Antons Room at the Bevilacqua La Masa
Foundation, Palazzetto Tito, Venice.

, ed. Yoko Ono: To See the Skies.


Milan: Fondazione Mudima; Milan:
Nuove Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta, 1990.

Yoko Ono: An Invisible Flower. Introduction


by Sean Lennon. San Francisco: Chronicle
Books, 2012. Japanese edition, Tokyo:
Chimera Library, 2011.

INFINITE UNIVERSE AT DAWN. Surrey,


UK: Genesis Publications, 2014.

Hendricks, Jon, Pablo J. Rico, and Pilar


Baos, eds. Sphere9. Palma: Fundaci
Pilar i Joan Mir a Mallorca, 1995.

rbu, Grete, ed. Yoko Ono: Horizontal


Memories. Oslo: Astrup Fearnley Museum
of Modern Art, 2005.

Summer of 1961. In Jon Hendricks,


with Marianne Bech and Media Farzin,
eds. Fluxus Scores and Instructions:
The Transformative Years:Make a Salad.
Detroit: Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection; Roskilde, Denmark: Museet
for Samtidskunst, 2008, pp. 3839.

Acorn. New York: OR Books, 2013.


Thirteen Film Scores by Yoko Ono. London:
self-published, 1968.

SOLO EXHIBITION
CATALOGUES
In alphabetical order

, ed. Yoko Ono: The Bronze


Age. Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: Cranbrook
Academy of Art Museum, 1989.

Hendricks, Jon, and Marianne Bech,


eds. Yoko Ono: Color, Fly, Sky. Roskilde,
Denmark: Museet for Samtidskunst, 1992.
Hendricks, Jon, and Ina Blom, eds.
Yoko Ono: Insound/Instructure.
Hvikodden, Norway: Sonia Henie and
Niels Onstad Foundation, 1990.
Hendricks, Jon, and Sam Havadtoy, eds.
Yoko Ono: 3 Rooms. Trento, Italy: Galleria
Civica di Arte Contemporanea; Milan:
Skira Editore, 1995.

Herzogenrath, Wulf, and Frank Lauktter,


eds. Yoko Ono: Gemlde/Paintings
19601964. Bremen: Kunsthalle Bremen;
Bremen: Hachmann Edition, 2007.
Iles, Chrissie. Yoko Ono: Have You Seen
the Horizon Lately? Oxford, UK: Museum
of Modern Art Oxford, 1997.
Kellein, Thomas, ed. Yoko Ono: Between
the Sky and My Head. Cologne: Verlag der
Buchhandlung Walther Knig, 2008.
Kent, Rachel, ed. Yoko Ono: War Is Over!
(If you want it): Yoko Ono. Sydney: Museum
of Contemporary Art Australia, 2013.
Kvaran, Gunnar, ed. Yoko Ono:
Impressions. Bergen, Norway: Bergen
Kunstmuseum, 1999.
Munroe, Alexandra, and Jon Hendricks,
eds. Yes Yoko Ono. New York: Japan
Society; New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.
Ono, Yoko. Fumie. Tokyo: Sgetsukai,
1990.
. Light. Tokyo: Tomio Koyama
Gallery, 2013.
. Yoko Ono: A Piece of Sky. Rome:
Galleria Stefania Miscetti, 1993.
Panicelli, Ida. Yoko Ono: Lighting Piece.
Rome: Studio Stefania Miscetti, 1994.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rattee, Kathryn, Melissa Larner, and


Rebecca Lewin, eds. Yoko Ono: To the
Light. London: Serpentine Gallery;
London: Koenig Books, 2012.

Robinson, Julia, and Christian Xatrec,


eds. I96I: Founding the Expanded Arts.
Madrid: Museum Nacional Centro de
Arte Reina Sofia, 2013.

Starke, Jrg. Yoko Ono: Endangered


Species 23192322. Berlin: Stiftung
Starke, 1992.

Shiner, Eric C., and Reiko Tomii, eds. Making


a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in
New York. New York: Japan Society, 2008.

Yoko Ono: The Yoko Ono Film Festival


Smile Event. Rome: Studio Stefania
Miscetti; Rome: 2RC Edizioni dArte, 1996.
Yoko Ono: Touch Me. New York: Galerie
Lelong; Milan: Edizioni Charta, 2008.

GROUP EXHIBITION
CATALOGUES

Armstrong, Elizabeth, and Joan Rothfuss,


eds. In the Spirit of Fluxus. Minneapolis:
Walker Art Center, 1993.

BOOKS AND ARTICLES

Bari, Martha Ann. Mass Media Is the


Message: Yoko Ono and John Lennons
1969 Year of Peace. PhD diss., College
Park: University of Maryland, 2007.
Beram, Nell, and Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky.
Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies. New York:
Amulet Books, 2013.
Boriss-Krimsky, Carolyn. Yoko Ono:
Art of the Mind. Art New England 22, no. 6
(OctoberNovember 2001): 2628, 83.

Camnitzer, Luis, Jane Farver, and Rachel


Weiss, eds. Global Conceptualism: Points
of Origin, 1950s1980s. New York: Queens
Museum of Art, 1999.

Bracewell, Michael. Rising Sun: An


Interview with Yoko Ono. Frieze, no. 64
(JanuaryFebruary 2002): 6871.

Chong, Doryun, ed. Tokyo 19551970:


A New Avant-Garde. New York:
The Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

Bryan-Wilson, Julia. Remembering Yoko


Onos Cut Piece. Oxford Art Journal 26,
no. 1 (Spring 2003): 10123.

Hendricks, Jon, ed. Whats Fluxus? Whats


Not! Why. Braslia: Centro Cultural Banco
do Brasil; Detroit, Mich.: Gilbert and
Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, 2002.

Concannon, Kevin. Not for Sale: Yoko


Onos Discounted Advertising Art. Athanor
17 (1999): 7785.

Judson Gallery Presents The Stone by


Anthony Cox, Sound Forms by Michael
Mason, Eye Bags by Yoko Ono, Film
Message by Jeff Perkins, Air: Jon
Hendricks. New York: Judson Gallery, 1966.
Merewether, Charles, with Rika
Iezumi Hiro, eds. Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art:
Experimentations in the Public Sphere in
Postwar Japan, 19501970. Los Angeles:
Getty Research Institute, 2007.
Michalka, Matthias, ed. Changing
Channels: Art and Television 19631987.
Vienna: MUMOK Museum Moderner
Kunst; Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung
Walther Knig 2010.
Oliva, Achille Bonito, ed. Ubi Fluxus ibi
motus: 19901962. Venice: Ex Granai della
Repubblica alle Zitelle;Venice: Fondazione
Mudima; Venice: Nuove Edizioni Gabriele
Mazzotta, 1990.
af Petersens, Magnus, ed. Explosion!
Painting as Action. Stockholm: Moderna
Museet; London: Koenig Books, 2012.

. War Is Over! John and Yokos


Christmas Eve Happening, Tokyo, 1969.
Review of Japanese Culture and Society
17 (December 2005): 7285.
Cott, Jonathan. Days That Ill Remember:
Spending Time with John Lennon and
Yoko Ono. New York: Doubleday, 2013.
. Yoko Ono and Her Sixteen-Track
Voice. Rolling Stone, no. 78 (March 18,
1971), pp. 2426.
Danto, Arthur C. Yoko Ono. In Unnatural
Wonders: Essays from the Gap between
Art and Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and
Giroux, 2007, pp. 6976.
Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. Self-Stylization
and Performativity in the Work of Yoko Ono,
Yayoi Kusama and Mariko Mori. Quarterly
Review of Film and Video 27, no. 4 (2010):
26775.
Frank, Whitney. Instructions for
Destruction: Yoko Onos Performance
Art. Intersections 10, no. 1 (Winter 2009):
571607.

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Pfeiffer, Ingrid, and Max Hollein, eds.
Yoko Ono: Half-A-Wind ShowA
Retrospective. Frankfurt am Main: Schirn
Kunsthalle Frankfurt; Munich: Prestel
Verlag, 2013.

Phillpot, Clive, and Jon Hendricks.


Fluxus: Selections from the Gilbert and
Lila Silverman Collection. New York:
The Museum of Modern Art, 1988.

Haskell, Barbara, and John Hanhardt.


Yoko Ono, Arias and Objects. Salt Lake
City, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1991.

YOKO ONO: ONE WOMAN SHOW, 19601971

Hendricks, Jon. Fluxus Codex. Detroit,


Mich.: Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection; in association with New York:
Harry N. Abrams, 1988, pp. 41426.

Wiener, Jon. Pop and Avant-Garde: The


Case of John and Yoko. Popular Music
and Society 22, no. 1 (July 24, 2008):
116.

, ed. Instructions for Paintings by


Yoko Ono. Budapest: Galeria 56, 1993.

Yoshimoto, Midori. Fluxus and Japanese


Women Artists. In Midori Yoshimoto and
Reiko Kokatsu. Japanese Women Artists
in Avant-Garde Movements, 19501975.
Tochigi, Japan: Tochigi Prefectural Museum
of Fine Arts, 2005, pp. 194200.

, ed. Paintings & Drawings by


Yoko Ono. Budapest: Galeria 56, 1993.
hooks, bell. The Dancing Heart: A
Conversation between Yoko Ono and bell
hooks. Paper, September 1997.
iimura, Takahiko. Ono Yoko hito to sakuhin
= Yoko Ono. Tokyo: Bunka Shuppankyoku,
Showa 60, 1985.
Lippard, Lucy, ed. Six Years: The
Dematerialization of the Art Object from
1966 to 1972. New York: Praeger Press,
1973.
MacDonald, Scott. Yoko Ono. In A Critical
Cinema 2: Interviews with Independent
Filmmakers. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1999, pp. 13956.

. Into Performance: Japanese


Women Artists in New York. New
Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press,
2005.
Young, La Monte, ed. An Anthology of
Chance Operations, Concept Art, Anti Art,
Indeterminacy, Plans of Action, Diagrams,
Music, Dance Constructions, Improvisation,
Meaningless Work, Natural Disasters,
Compositions, Mathematics, Essays,
Poetry. New York: La Monte Young and
Jackson Mac Low, 1963.

236

237

PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS

Individual works of art appearing in this


publication may be protected by copyright
in the United States of America, or elsewhere, and may not be reproduced in any
form without the permission of the rights
holders. In reproducing the images contained herein, the Museum obtained the
permission of the rights holders whenever
possible. Should the Museum have been
unable to locate a rights holder, notwithstanding good-faith efforts, it requests that
any contact information concerning such
rights holders be forwarded so that they
may be contacted for future editions.
Unless otherwise noted, all works of art
by Yoko Ono are Yoko Ono 2015.

. Yoko Ono: Ideas on Film:


Interview/Scripts. Film Quarterly 43, no. 1
(Autumn 1989): 223.

Agence France-Presse/Hulton Archive/


Getty Images: pl. 91.

Mackie, Vera. Instructing, Constructing,


Deconstructing: The Embodied and
Disembodied Performances of Yoko Ono.
In Roy Starrs, ed., Rethinking Japanese
Modernism. Boston: Brill, 2011, pp.
490501.

ARTnews, LLC, September 1961. Image:


The Museum of Modern Art, Department of
Imaging and Visual Resources: p. 75.
The Campus 4, no. 26 (October 25,
1955). Courtesy Sarah Lawrence College
Archives, Bronxville, N.Y.: pp. 1415.

Mekas, Jonas. Jonas Mekas prsente


Fluxfriends: George Maciunus, Yoko Ono,
John Lennon. Paris: ditions du Centre
Pompidou, 2002.

Photograph by Tony Conrad. Courtesy the


artist and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York:
p. 26, fig. 4.

Munroe, Alexandra. Japanese Art After


1945: Scream Against the Sky. New York:
Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

Photograph by Anthony Cox. Image


courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pl. 76.

Obrist, Hans Ulrich. Yoko OnoThe


Conversation Series. Cologne: Verlag der
Buchhandlung Walther Knig, 2009.

Daily News, L.P., New York. Used with


permission. Images courtesy LENONO
PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York: pp. 22829.

Palmer, Robert. On Thin Ice: The Music


of Yoko Ono. In liner notes to Yoko Ono,
Onobox, six compact discs, Rykodisc RCD
10224/29, 1992.

Photograph by Gerry Deiter. Joan Athey


(peaceworksnow@shaw.ca): pl. 86.
Courtesy the Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman
Collection, Detroit. Robert Hensleigh:
pls. 2831, 66.

Shank, Barry. Abstraction and


Embodiment: Yoko Ono and the Weaving
of Global Musical Networks. Journal of
Popular Music Studies 18, no. 3 (2006):
282300.

Photograph by Nigel Hartnup. Image


courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pl. 77.

Stiles, Kristine. Unbosoming Lennon:


The Politics of Yoko Onos Experience. Art
Criticism 7, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 2152.

Photograph by Minoru Hirata. Permission


granted by Shkan taish. Image courtesy
LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York:
pl. 46.
Text Toshi Ichiyanagi. Article
Shinchosha Publishing Company. Image
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pp. 12021.

From the New York Times, April 4, 1961,


1961 The New York Times: p. 74;
November 25, 1961, 1961 The New York
Times: p. 76; March 21, 1965, 1965 The
New York Times: p. 149. All rights reserved.
Used by permission and protected by
the Copyright Laws of the United States.
The printing, copying, redistribution, or
retransmission of this Content without
express written permission is prohibited.

www.internationaltimes.it: pp. 22426.


Photographs by Graham Keen. Graham
Keen. Images courtesy LENONO PHOTO
ARCHIVE, New York: pls. 72, 73.
Courtesy Kei University Art Center and
Archives, Tokyo: pl. 23.
Images courtesy LENONO PHOTO
ARCHIVE, New York: pp. 1819; p. 23,
figs. 1, 2; p. 37, figs. 2, 4, 5; pls. 22, 6264,
68, 74, 89; pp. 17479, 182, 183, 214, 221;
Dan Dennehy: pl. 12; John Bigelow Taylor:
pl. 69.
Photographs by John Lennon. Images
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pls. 80, 84.
George Maciunas. Used by permission.
Images: The Museum of Modern Art,
Department of Imaging and Visual
Resources: pls. 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 53.
Fred W. McDarrah/Premium Archive/Getty
Images: pl. 55.
Courtesy Marta Minujn Archives: p. 26,
fig. 7.
Photographs by Peter Moore. Barbara
Moore/Licensed by VAGA, New York: pls.
3840, 47, 48, 52, 54, 56, 61, 83, 88.
Images: The Museum of Modern Art,
Department of Imaging and Visual
Resources: p. 26, fig. 6; pls. 5, 6, 19, 20,
32, 4345, 67, 87, 9597; p. 216. Peter
Butler: pls. 42, 57, 58, 82.
Stills from film by Chiaki Nagano. Images
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pls. 21, 34.

Photographs by Minoru Niizuma,


Minoru Niizuma. Images courtesy
LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York:
pls. 14, 49; p. 74.
Photograph by Akio Nonaka. Image
courtesy Shinchosha Publishing Company:
pl. 26.
Photographs by Yoko Ono: p. 37, fig. 3;
pl. 85. Stills from films by Yoko Ono:
pls. 75, 9294. Images courtesy LENONO
PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York.
Yoko Ono and George Maciunas:
p. 12; pls. 10, 37. Yoko Ono (concept and
text) and George Maciunas (graphics):
pl. 59. Images: The Museum of Modern
Art, Department of Imaging and Visual
Resources.
Photograph by Clay Perry. Courtesy
England & Co, London: pl. 78.
Still from film by Hans Preiner/ORF. Image
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pl. 81.
Private collection. Images: The Museum
of Modern Art, Department of Imaging and
Visual Resources: pls. 33, 35; Peter Butler:
pls. 7, 8, 17, 18, 36, 41, 70, 79.
Photograph by Jan van Raay.
Jan van Raay: p. 26, fig. 5.
Original text Donald Richie. Article
Shinchosha Publishing Company. Image
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pp. 11819.

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Wasserman, Emily. Yoko Ono at Syracuse,


This Is Not Here. Artforum 10, no. 5
(January 1972): 6973.

Photograph by Simon Hilton. Image


courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: p. 38.

Reprinted with permission from the


November 8, 1971, issue of The Nation:
p. 227.

Photographs by Charles S. Rotenberg,


AICP. Image: The Museum of Modern
Art, Department of Imaging and Visual
Resources: pl. 60.

YOKO ONO: ONE WOMAN SHOW, 19601971

Image by Tom Van Sant: p. 2.


Photographs by Kishin Shinoyama.
Yoko Ono. Images courtesy LENONO
PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York: front cover
of catalogue, back cover of slipcase. Seen
within the latter: Henry Moore. Family
Group. 194849; cast 1950. The Museum
of Modern Art, New York. A. Conger
Goodyear Fund. 2015/Artists Rights
Society (ARS), New York
Photograph by Hanns Sohm.
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Archiv Sohm
Photo: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Image
courtesy Kristine Stiles Papers, David
M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript
Library, Duke University: pl. 65.

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN


THE WORLD AND THE ARTIST?: pp.
21516. First published in This Is Not
Here. Syracuse, N.Y.: Everson Museum of
Art, 1971. Reprinted in Museum Of Modern
(F)art. New York: self-published, 1971, n.p.

THE FEMINIZATION OF OUR SOCIETY:


pp. 21718. First published in the New York
Times, February 23, 1972. Unabridged
version published in SunDance, AprilMay
1972. The version published in the present
catalogue first appeared, in slightly different form, in the liner notes for Yoko Ono,
Approximately Infinite Universe, two LPs,
Apple Records SVBB 3399, 1973.

Image (article) 2014 Tate, London:


pp. 18487.
Photograph by Erich Thomas. Image
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pl. 90.

Feeling the Space: pp. 21920. First


published on the back cover of Yoko Ono,
Feeling the Space, LP, Apple Records
SW-3412, 1973.

Villager. Image courtesy LENONO


PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York: p. 148.
The Village Voice, a Voice Media Group,
Inc. Publication: p. 23 fig. 3; p. 77.

Strawberryfields Forever: p. 221. First published in New York Times, August 28, 1981.

Photograph by Ray Weaver, Mirrorpix:


p. 28.
Photograph by E. Wilkins. Courtesy
REX USA: pl. 71.
Photographs by Yasuhiro Yoshioka. Images
courtesy LENONO PHOTO ARCHIVE,
New York: pls. 24, 25, 27, 50, 51.

YOKOS VOICE TEXT CREDITS


In chronological order

All texts and images are Yoko Ono 2015.

FOR THE WESLEYAN PEOPLE:


pp. 14447. Self-published as insert in
Judson Gallery Presents The Stone by
Anthony Cox, Sound Forms by Michael
Mason, Eye Bags by Yoko Ono, Film
Message by Jeff Perkins, Air: Jon
Hendricks. New York: Judson Gallery,
1966: n.p.

THE PLASTIC ONO BAND: p. 214.


Self-published in To My Sisters, With
Love, 1971.

A LETTER TO GEORGE MACIUNAS:


p. 70. Written December 3, 1971. First
published in this volume.

Photographs by Studio One. Idea by


Yoko Ono. Images courtesy LENONO
PHOTO ARCHIVE, New York: p. 32.

WORDS OF A FABRICATOR: pp. 11415.


First published in SAC Journal, no. 24
(May 1962): n.p.

NOTES ON THE LISSON GALLERY


SHOW: pp. 18081. Published in Yoko Ono
Half-A-Wind Show. London: Lisson Gallery,
1967, pp. 12.

CUT PIECE: p. 117. First published in


Libration, Paris, September 2003; also
distributed during Onos performance
of Cut Piece at the Thtre Le Ranelagh,
Paris, September 15, 2003.
SUMMER OF 1961: pp. 7273. First
published in Jon Hendricks, with
Marianne Bech and Media Farzin, eds.,
Fluxus Scores and Instructions: The
Transformative Years:Make a Salad.
Detroit: Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus
Collection; Roskilde, Denmark: Museet
for Samtidskunst, 2008, pp. 3839.
UNCOVER: p. 222. First published on
www.imaginepeace.com, July 24, 2014;
republished in English and Japanese,
Gallery 360 Degrees, Tokyo, December 9,
2014; republished in the New York Times,
January 4, 2015.
DONT STOP ME!: p. 223. Written
November 9, 2014. First published in this
volume.
OF WORDS OF A FABRICATOR: p. 116.
E-mail from Yoko Ono to Jon Hendricks,
September 1, 2014. First published in this
volume.

238

239

CHAMBERS STREET LOFT SERIES:


p. 71. Written November 18, 2014. First
published in this volume.
MAP PEACE: p. 2. Written December 2014.
First published in this volume.
SURRENDER TO PEACE: interior of
catalogue back cover. This version written
in 2015. First published in this volume.

Published in conjunction with the exhibition


Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 19601971,
presented at The Museum of Modern Art,
New York, from May 17 to September 7,
2015, and organized by Klaus Biesenbach,
Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of
Modern Art, and Director, MoMA PS1, and
Christophe Cherix, The Robert Lehman
Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings and
Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, with
Francesca Wilmott, Curatorial Assistant,
Department of Drawings and Prints, The
Museum of Modern Art.

2015 The Museum of Modern Art,


New York

Major support for the exhibition is provided


by MoMAs Wallis Annenberg Fund for
Innovation in Contemporary Art through
the Annenberg Foundation, BNP Paribas,
and The Modern Womens Fund.

Published by The Museum of Modern Art


11 West 53 Street
New York, New York 10019
www.moma.org

Additional funding is provided by the


MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.

Distributed in the United States and


Canada by ARTBOOK | D.A.P., New York
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York,
NY 10013
www.artbook.com

Support for this publication is provided by


The Museum of Modern Arts Research
and Scholarly Publications endowment
established through the generosity of The
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Edward
John Noble Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Perry
R. Bass, and the National Endowment for
the Humanities Challenge Grant Program.

Produced by the Department of


Publications, The Museum of Modern Art,
New York
Christopher Hudson, Publisher
Chul R. Kim, Associate Publisher
David Frankel, Editorial Director
Marc Sapir, Production Director
Edited by Kyle Bentley
Designed by Kloepfer-Ramsey-Kwon
Production by Hannah Kim
Printed and bound by OGI/1010 Printing
Group Ltd., China

Unless otherwise noted, all works of art by


Yoko Ono are Yoko Ono 2015.
Copyright credits for certain illustrations are
cited on pp. 23738. All rights reserved

Library of Congress Control Number:


2015931935
ISBN: 978-0-87070-966-1

Distributed outside the United States and


Canada by Thames & Hudson ltd
181A High Holborn, London WC1V 7QX
www.thamesandhudson.com

Front cover of catalogue, back cover


of slipcase: photographs by Kishin
Shinoyama. Yoko Ono at The Museum of
Modern Art. 2015. Seen within the latter:
Henry Moore. Family Group. 194849;
cast 1950. The Museum of Modern Art,
New York. A. Conger Goodyear Fund
P. 2: Yoko Ono. MAP PEACE. 2014.
Image by Tom Van Sant, The Earth from
Space, 1990
Interior of catalogue back cover: Yoko Ono.
SURRENDER TO PEACE. 2015.
Printed in China

Translations from Japanese to English by


Midori Yoshimoto: pp. 12225.

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This book is typeset in Helvetica and
BG Nr.4325. The paper is 115 gsm
Kasadaka matt art paper.

240

TRUSTEES OF THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

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Honorary Chairman
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Honorary Chairman
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Ex Officio
Glenn D. Lowry
Director
Agnes Gund*
Chairman of the Board of MoMA PS1
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President of The International Council
Christopher Lee Apgar and Ann Schaffer
Co-Chairmen of The Contemporary
Arts Council
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