I went to Yoko Ono’s exhibition at the Baltic yesterday, titled Between the Sky and My Head, … BRILLIANT!
The first piece I experienced was called A Maze; an attendant approached me before I entered and warned me some people found it disorientating, there were some dead ends and I should take it slowly and gently.
It is a strangely lovely experience finding one’s way to the centre, via various dead ends which are invisible until you reach them, to the centre where there is a sort Zen space. And although the maze is situated in the centre of a gallery with lots of other people there, actually walking the maze I felt totally detached. In practice the maze represents a series of choices: this way or that, one way is a dead end, the other way leads to a choice: this way or that, one way leads to a dead end, the other way leads to a choice: this way or that, one way leads to a dead end, the other way leads to a choice.. etc. Thinking about it afterwards, the maze also brings to mind the concept of ‘glass ceilings’, a way of making physical the invisible barriers to progress apparent in so many areas of life.
The next piece work was in a small side room on its own, again with an attendant standing by. It was called Touch Me 2008, but after being there for a while and watching how people behaved I wanted to add the subtitle (Most People Don’t.)
There is a notice advising visitors this is a participatory work, we are invited to dip our hands in the water and then touch the parts of the body displayed. In that quiet atmosphere with just the attendant watching I did as instructed and touched her lips in the first box.. they were unexpectedly soft and life like.. it was too personal an encounter for me; erotic intimate and embarassing. Two of the toes were missing on the right foot and the attendant explained that was why he was there, apparently this was the second foot they were on as some people were tempted to pull the toes off and they did not want any more damaged. I had a vision of a back room at the Baltic with all these feet and other body parts of Yoko Ono lined up on shelves.
In the blurb from the Baltic about the exhibition it said ” Yoko Ono’s poetic and political approach to art is explored through sculpture, photography, film, installation and performance. Ono often uses simple materials such as water light and the human voice to make her works, however equally integral to Ono’s work is the realisation of the works in the mind of the viewer.” This last bit really makes sense to me, because it has been through experiencing them in practice that they have made sense to me and got my mind wandering in different unexpected directions. There were lots of other things too: Morning Beams were a series of white nylon ropes cutting diagonally across the room from ceiling to floor and catching the sunlight. These were inspired by seeing Jacobs ladders in her kitchen one morning, and the ropes were meant to represent the sun beams, although in practice they also looked like a though they were catching the sun instead. Two short films of performances of Cut Piece, in which she sat on a stage in her best dress and the audience came and cut bits off it until there was nothing left…… and lots more.
Some of Ono’s writings were on the wall:
“Among my instruction paintings, my interest is mainly in ‘painting to construct in your head’. In your head , for instance, it is possible for a straight line to exist -etc..
Event, to me, is not an assimilation of all the other arts as Happening seems to be, but an extrication from the various sensory perceptions. It is not ‘a get togetherness’ as most happenings are, but a dealing with oneself. Also it has no script as happenings do, though it has something that starts it moving – the closest word for it may be a ‘wish’ or ‘hope’.”
When I got home I wrote down a list of my reactions/thoughts from the various pieces I saw there:
Involving/Sensory/Aesthetic/Challenging personal boundaries/Provocative/ Beautiful/ Violent/Revolting/Philosophical/Uplifting/ About being human/Stillness………..
which is quite a lot to take from one exhibition.