Sunday, December 16, 2001

Finally got to the Yoko Ono retrospective at MIT. It's interesting in that the pieces, by and large, aren't given the usual heirloom treatment. In many cases, the viewer is invited to mess with the work --- all-white chessboards, with white pieces on both sides, which visitors are invited to play; a wishing tree by the door to which visitors can add their own wishes on a provided supply of blank tags; a telephone which Ono calls every once in a while to chat with whoever might be there. Some of her most famous work is the "incomplete paintings", which consist of instructions to the viewer --- there are copies which you can remove from the gallery and carry away; I came away with one, "smoke painting", which reads:
Light canvas or any finished painting with a cigarette at any time for any length of time.
See the smoke movement.
The painting ends when the whole canvas or painting is gone.
Another old piece is the "blue room installation", consisting literally of handwriting on a wall, which is recreated afresh for each showing. The work is an idea; the idea is more important than any physical manifestation of the work.

And yet, and yet.

One of the works on display is from the show at which Yoko met John Lennon; it's the first piece he saw, and the one which got him to stay in the gallery. On the ceiling above a white lader, in letters small enough that you need the attached magnifying glass to read it, is the word "yes".

Visitors are strongly cautioned not to climb the ladder.


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