How Yoko Ono Made Me Sad
Two friends in my pocket, Kete and Precious, I went to go see what Yoko Ono had been up to this past 80 odd years.
I sent Kete snapchats of walking butts and collected two pieces of sky, one for her, one for me. Both the part of a same puzzle pulled from an upturned helmet of a soldier.
I sent her a picture of the two pieces and she said “We’re matching!” I said “No! We are fitting and complimentary”.
Those pieces were fairly straight forward, for me. As was the white-on-white chess pieces designed to remind opponents that after a certain point, you forget who you are, who you are fighting and, in turn, what you are fighting for.
It was an ominous start for someone who feels like the war is far from over, but wants the war to be over so fucking bad.
One of the interactive artworks was a glass/perspex maze with a phone in the middle of it. Under the phone it says “When the phone rings know that it is me”
I made my way through, my hands out front to make sure I didn’t bump into anything (I did, anyway). In the centre, I found the phone and took the picture. I tried to dial Kete.
On no uncertain terms, the phone told me to contact my service provider because it doesn’t allow calls to that number. At this point in time, my brain hadn’t fully clocked that it was a phone to be dialed IN to, I just thought that if I dialed it, I would either get connected or get some sort of recorded reply from her.
This struck me as a super strange occurrence. A corporation telling me I cannot connect and Y.O. promising connection.
Not only that, my attempt at connection could have been the very thing that stopped Y.O. from getting through to me. The idea is to sit and wait for her, like I was a character in Waiting For Godot Ono.
A chat with her would have been nice, but the idea of her calling at her leisure split me from her – made her not just a human, but some sort of dignitary, a deity.
Granted, she’s a veritable god, but I feel like the artwork was supposed to work in reverse to that notion and remind us that she’s just a person happy for a chat with a stranger in a gallery.
I asked the Visitor Service Officer if Y.O. called it. She said yes, that Y.O. was a bit of a night owl and so the time difference to New York worked well. One day she called 4 times. Not today, though, or at least, not while I was there.
At some point I saw this and thought about how one person can cast so many different shadows.
The most interesting piece was a collection of stamps and ink pads where participants were invited to stamp maps with “Imagine Peace” in varying languages (I assume, I couldn’t read them).
I was drawn immediately to English and to Russia where I’d been recently reading about Pussy Riot members being released. Every time I stamped I tried not to let the stamp slip, or else the message wouldn’t come through clearly.
I stamped systematically down it. Rhythmic repetitive tasks give me space to think, in this way it was nice, though the idea of patterns and the phrase “History repeats itself” didn’t elude me.
It came out like a list, drifting unconsciously to the left. Every time the ink ran out on the stamp it appeared like waning interest. Every time I re-inked it appeared like as time lapsed, attention was drawn back.
I guess that’s how I feel right now, fatigued by the constant outrage at what my government is doing to me and the people I love.
Sparked, fatigued. Sparked, fatigued.
I watched other people interact with the art work. Most of the stamps landed on landmass. People seemed to think that peace was something to do with land. I thought about activists being locked up in Japan for protesting ships.
I started to think about how people perceived peace – if it was just a word, or an action. I was drawn to English but I stamped on Russia. My actions were influenced by the media (the Guardian)
I watched others. They tended to pick up a stamp, a sense of taboo eliciting small thrill smiles. They stamped only once. They didn’t take up space or time on the artwork. They moved on.
“Imagin[ing] Peace” for them was a fleeting thought. That made me pretty miserable.
Despite feeling decidedly nihilistic, I was very busy enjoying “War Is Over“. Having my sketch book, I picked the room full of doors with melting sky to practice some sketching.
It was an exercise in movement. The doors got a fair amount of attention because they stayed still. If someone strayed across my vision, I would sketch their movements. It came out dreamlike, almost like I was sketching the smell of someone as they drifted across a set space.
One of the Visitor Services Officers passed me and said “Practicing your perspective? This is the best place to do it.”
And, I must say, that made me pretty sad, indeed.