Tag Archives: Yoko Ono

Back to the Bed-in

What I Missed: Yoko at the MMFA photo by Ian Barrett

What I Missed: Yoko at the MMFA photo by Ian Barrett

The Ballad of John and Yoko opened at the MMFA on Tuesday to media fanfare and huge crowds. In fact it was so crowded I barely made it in to the exhibition. Billed as a VIP event, in a brilliant turn of pr, half of Montreal turned out to the opening waiving their exclusive invites only to be left standing in the foyer while Yoko’s image was beamed onto a giant hovering TV screen like something out of The Prisoner.

From where I was standing she wasn’t seen and was barely heard (judging by news reports she talked peace, Lennon and giggled a lot), though a children’s choir singing “Imagine” came through a-okay. When we—my friend and Pin Pal, Sara, and I were dates—finally made it to the second floor we headed straight to the drinks and for one not-so-obvious reason.

While we waited patiently for over an hour to get into the exhibit, quite a few people who’d already viewed the show were leaving. One woman in particular took it upon herself to put us all out of our misery by shouting her thoughts to a friend in the waiting crowd. “It’s NOT that good,” she said with an exaggerated frown.  Definitely not worth the wait.” So wine in hand, we hunkered down and waited for the crowds to thin out before braving what we expected would be a disappointing exhibition. Contrary to the killjoy, and to the museum’s credit, it was worth the wait.

Curators Emma Lavigne and Thierry Planelle have succeeded in turning an overexposed, dated, baby-boomers-bathing-in-the-glory-of-their-youth subject, it into something genuinely clever, modern and interesting.

Part of what makes this exhibit particularly engaging and different, especially for the MMFA—a museum known for its look, don’t touch policy—is the inclusion of the viewer as participant. Audience interaction has always been a part of Ono’s work and here it’s invoked in just the right amount and in the right way.

The show opens with the piece “Hammer in Nail,” which was included in Ono’s show at the Indica Gallery in 1966 and as the title suggests involves you, the audience, banging a nail into a piece of wood. It’s a tactile way to draw attention to her as an artist, not as the woman who broke up the Beatles. Even if you ignore the piece, the sound of others hammering a way will call your attention back to it.  

What I Saw: The Yoko Phone

What I Saw: The Yoko Phone

Newer works, like “Wish Tree,” which asks that you tie your thoughts to a number of potted plants in the room and “Play It by Trust,” a banquet sized table of 15 chess boards awaiting your next move, continue with the interactive theme. Ono too remains part of this interaction with “Yoko phone” and old rotary that, when dialed, will put you in direct contact with the artist once a day at an unspecified time. At the time of my call, however, I reached security.

The exhibit also includes album art from Lennon and Ono’s work together, as well as a replica of the white piano Lennon played in the “Imagine” video, all of which leads up to the Bed-in exhibit featuring posters, sketches and photos of the couples honeymoon-protest all surrounding a king sized bed (not the actual bed, mercifully, but a stand-in). Which brings us back to the centre of the exhibit, this high-profile relationship.

At its core the exhibition is about Lennon and Ono, the couple. Though it gives ample and deserved space their anti-war protests and Ono the artist, the exhibit is a meditation on their work together and apart and the influences they had on each other. Ono’s conceptual work is what makes this exhibit something more modern and contemporary, even if much of it was created in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s her creations that add the much needed element of the outsider, of an audience. Without it, it’s a look at a celebrity relationship with political leanings. But with it, a historical protest becomes contemporary art.






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Ono meets Montreal

Ono with apple

Ono with apple

Tonight marks the opening of The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, an exhibition honouring and dedicated to their peace protest and Bed-in, which took place 40 years ago at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. An event that toured part-way-around the world and yielded iconic photographs of the long-haired couple and permitted the hotel to charge the stunning price of $900 a night for the same room.
Now, before you start thinking I’m some sort of Lennon-crazy I’m just going to come out and say it—I’ve never cared that much for the Beatles (I’m a Rolling Stones fan). And I care even less about Yoko’s comments about Lennon’s brilliance and talent but I am excited about the possibility of even catching a glimpse of Ms. “Yes, I’m a Witch” Ono at what is bound to be a very packed opening.
Because what I find most interesting about her—and this can be lonely territory—is her work as an artist, both visual and musical.  Her piece involving the ladder and the magnifying glass and the tiny decal of the word Yes, which brought the couple together in 1966, is one of the more interesting and fun installation pieces to come out of the ’60s. All at once it invited audience participation and encapsulated the exuberant, unrestrained perspective of the time. Also, Sean Lennon’s late-90s record Into the Sun kind of killed me when it came out.

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