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If art has ever picked its favourites then it would be fair to say that Yoko Ono is amongst them, if not at the very pinnacle of the contemporary elite. Commonly referred to as ‘the world’s most famous unknown artist’, Ono’s relationship with the late John Lennon and the events that ensued are often regarded as a key factor in her fame, and for many she is nothing more than the woman who split up the Beatles, ending one of the most revolutionary eras in music. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark has recently hosted an entire season to Ono, celebrating her colossal input into the art world for more than fifty years; ‘Half-A-Wind Show’ was the name of one of Ono’s earlier exhibitions which pushed at the mental boundaries of contemporary art, and subsequently became the name of this retrospective exhibition.
The gallery is vast, hosting an expansive collection of Ono’s provocative and often startlingly original works, presented to the viewers in a variety of mediums. An architectural installation titled ‘En Trance’ provides the viewer with six different ways of entering the gallery space, ensuring that all must interact with her work if only in this basic way. Ono utilises mirrors, cut out sections of wall, a slide, steps, and a narrowing passage to intrigue her audience, drawing them into to a variety of spatial experiences. Moving through the exhibition one’s sensory receptors are teased in all directions, with complex, changing layers of sound and visual arrangement, as well as a number of films which combine the two. Exploration into the decadent array of works on show reveals few traditional approaches to art making; the closest Ono comes to painting is a series of conceptual works with titles such as ‘Painting to be seen in the dark’ and ‘Painting to be stepped on’, neither of which make use of paint.
Other pieces displayed in the exhibition range from ‘Three Spoons’ (1967) in which four identical spoons are displayed in a glass case, to ‘Four Spoons’ (1988), a brass sculpture that depicts three spoons with a phantom fourth spoon present in the viewers mind. These two sculptures are classic examples of how the hype of Ono damaged her work, as she fails to question her own concept any further. For example, she could have tried to gauge whether a ‘spoon’ is truly a spoon if it has not been used to consume food, or whether creating something that needs a title so as to be controversial is not slightly presumptuous of her own status. Without the white cube gallery setting Ono’s work would perhaps be no more than the ramblings of a lunatic.
Despite this clear evidence of fame shifting her modes of production, the most annoying habit that Ono indulged herself with is her moaning and wailing that she claims to be music, which can be heard between the steady coughs from ‘Cough Piece’ and the screeching soundtrack for her video in which flies crawl on her naked flesh. It seems that where she once found herself conquering difficulty, she later found herself being difficult so that her work was not conquerable.
The way Yoko Ono thinks and chooses to communicate these thoughts visually, opens the mind to new and unusual ways of perceiving this world, prompting free flow of thought and imagination. However, between the many keys to the sky and lists of patronising instructions, one sees only a woman who lost her clothes to the scissors of a stranger in the name of art, who became a capitalist pop-star in the false name of peace. Give peace a chance? Give peace and quiet a chance.