see life as the playground of our minds."
Yoko Ono (1)
Ono is an artist whose work spans a whole range of media from music, film
and writing to performance, painting, installation and sculpture. A key
figure in the New York conceptual art movement of the sixties, she has
continued to explore ideas-based work dealing with issues of participation,
communication, philosophy, and sexual politics.
of Ono's work reveals a playful, experimental and inclusive approach to
art making. There is a mischief in the insistant way her work undermines
the pretensions and elitism of the art world with small, illusive statements,
but there is also a constant reaching out for some kind of larger meaning
or enlightenment. Her work draws on Zen philosophy through the process
of self-discovery and is also informed by her early musical training.
of her early pieces or 'scores' still exist as instructions for performances.
Some of these were originally enacted by the artist others could only
be 'performed' by the viewer or audience. These pieces move a step on
from Marcel Duchamp's belief that the work of art is only partly created
by the artist and is completed by the spectator. They also frequently
represent the search for wholeness or unity which is a central goal of
Ono's idea of license, the setting up of a situation where others could
complete a work of art instead of the artist, was a radical departure
from the existing concept of the role of the artist."
was a loose group of international writers, musicians and artists, founded
in 1960 in New York by Lithuanian artist George Maciunas, which was anti-elist
, anti-commercial and experimented across artforms and outside traditional
spaces for almost twenty years. Ono was involved in establishing the movement,
staging performances, making films and object-pieces. However, she continued
to make work beyond Fluxus, wanting to break away from the labelling and
controlling aspects of the art world and of society more generally, as
an artist and as a Japanese woman.
contribution to Fluxfilms included the famously controversial 'Film No.
4' which was a series of close-ups of naked human bottoms walking. Fluxfilms
were experimental and innovative attempts to explore and play with the
medium of film, rather than documentary or fictional narrative constructions.
From 1961-2 Yoko Ono made a series of pieces called 'Instruction Paintings'.
These were a set of typed instructions (like the one above right) originally
in Japanese script but later also in English, exhibited on the wall, just
as paintings would be. The apparent absence of images, combined with the
instructions of the artist forced the audience to create the work in their
the destructive works such as 'Cut Piece', where audience members were
invited up on stage to snip pieces off the clothes Yoko wore, or 'Painting
toHammer a Nail' (above right), in which the spectators gradually destroy
the traditional art canvas with nails, allude to a process of self discovery.
constantly uses ephemeral or intangible materials to draw the viewer back
to a conceptual or philosophical state. She works with glass and perspex,
plays with noise and silence, creates temporary pieces out of touch or
shadows and constantly uses the colour white because "it does not
interfere with your thoughts." In the piece 'Chess Set (All White
Chess Set')', 1966 (1)
she removes the element of competition from the game by making the opposing
sides identical. A later version of the work was titled 'Play it by trust'
implying this game of war strategy could become a process of cooperation
ideas had an enormous influence on a whole generation in the sixties and
early seventies, when she worked in partnership with husband John Lennon.
Their peaceful political protests and their music could be seen as an
extension of her previous performances, writings and scores, but were
often the subject of inflamed media coverage. Ironically, instead of being
given credit for her ideas, she is still more famous for an unintended
destruction piece, as 'The woman who broke up The Beatles'.