Yoko Ono 1969 Portrait by Ian Macmillan copyright Yoko Ono
One of the first records I ever bought was the 1969 Live Peace In Toronto by The Plastic Ono Band, primarily because it was one John Lennon album that I could afford with my pocket money. Bringing it home to play on the family stereogram I was sadly disappointed by side 1. A rambling medley of Rock and Roll standards from the late 1950s (something I was not interested in at all) and a few solo Lennon tracks which were ok I guess, but when it came to side 2 I was blown away. Don’t ask me why? it was just one of those moments when something from outside of one’s own world simply connects. Yoko’s primal scream, the aggressive repetitive guitar riff by Eric Clapton along with the words “don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry” were all new to me and it all made sense to me. This music just didn’t hark back to some bygone golden era, it was raw and unflinching, real and true, it was of the moment. Being the schoolkid I was not hindered by the intricacies of what one should and not like, either in music or art. I just took it all in without prejudice.
Yoko Ono directing Film No4 “Bottoms” in London 1966-67 photo by John D Dryslade Courtesy of Yoko Ono
Today, Ono is widely recognized for her groundbreaking films and her radical music, recordings, concerts, as well as her performance art. Her films Fly, “RAPE”, Film No. 4 to name a few, are considered classics of 20th-century film, and her music has finally been acknowledged as the genesis of much of the new wave of musical forms that have circled the world.
So, I for one am getting pretty excited about the Yoko Ono exhibition which is coming to the city of Bristol this Fall. We at Deviation Street were fortunate to catch musician and artist Jimmy Galvin who is curating the show to ask him a few questions about how this recent show came about and what visitors can expect to see.
DS: Interventions 2 follows on from the 2013 exhibition held in the Villa of Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs. In bringing this exhibition to Bristol, you chose The Georgian House Museum to host the work. It’s a very different environment from the usual white cubed spaces of many art galleries. What were your reasons for choosing this particular venue?
JG: I have always loved the juxtaposition of old meets new when it comes to spaces showing any art. The narrative can be too influenced by the space which I personally find invasive so experiencing art of a particular genre in an unexpected place can bring a completely new perspective of experiencing the work that I find exciting, it’s like seeing something you already know so well from a completely new angle so it feels vital and new again. Also on a personal level, The Georgian House was the first museum I experienced. It was a place of refuge, but over the years the romanticism of the aesthetics started to fade as I started to do my own research and discovered its past and the history of the Pinney family, so the space took on a whole new meaning, forcing me to think about the context of these kinds of places. Not only what they mean to us as individuals, but more importantly what they stood for, and how their creation came about.
DS: Now in her mid-80’s Yoko’s creative activism was already evident with her involvement with the American Avant-Garde of the late 1950s and the Fluxus movement What can visitors to the exhibition expect to see.
JG: There will be 9 films in total. 7 of which she made during the 1960s such as “Fly’ ‘Freedom” “Matchpiece” “Smile” and a new version of her seminal work “SKY T.V” that involves live link showing sky onto a live monitor 24/7 for the duration of the whole show also included is a new piece ARISING first exhibited at The Venice Biennale in 2013. That address’s the sexual and violent abuse from men towards women. We also have “Wish Trees” that invites the visitors to compose a wish and hang it from the branches of the tree. It’s a simple gesture made all the more powerful as the branches of the tree fills up with more and more wishes.
DS: Entry to the exhibition is free, how important is this?
JG: Very for me, this makes it totally inclusive anyone is welcome to come and experience the work of a living legend who is still relevant and making counter-culture art.
DS: In the 1970s, fellow Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys pronounced the notion that Everyone is an artist., that we are all unique and following one’s own creative path is very evident in Yoko’s work. Participation is also an important aspect of her work. Her work Arising will feature a contribution from a group of Bristol-based women, who are involved with the SAFELINK project. Can you say a bit more about this?
JG: I wanted to make the ARISING piece create an actual ongoing legacy that actually impacts on our community in some way so I approached the SAFELINK director explaining my aims and intentions so they agreed to be involved as they will be supplying the testimonies that make up the work ARISING and Yoko personally gave me permission to use her image for a poster that will sell during the show with the largest % going to SAFELINK so they can carry on with the amazing work they do this is art as activism in action ,religion is dead the new vessel for higher human consciousness will be borne out by true creativity and kindness.
Thank You, Jimmy, we look forward to seeing the show.
Yoko Ono / The Georgian House Museum / 7 Great George Street / Bristol / BS1 5RR
Open Sat-Tues 11am-4pm Sept 28 – Dec 31 / Free entry
bristolmuseums.org.uk / imaginepeace.com
Curator: Jimmy Galvin