Yoko Ono

born in Tokyo, Japan; lives in New Yor

Biography

For family reasons spent her youth between Japan and the USA.

1952–1955 studies, first philosophy, as the first women at the Gakushuin University in Tokyo, after two semesters relocation to New York, and for a couple semesters visited Sarah Lawrence College, with a concentration on contemporary poetry and composition.

Since the 1960s A very close relationship to the New York avant-garde scene

1966 Got to know John Lennon in London, whom she then married in 1969

Worked as artist couple (with some interruptions) until Lennon’s murder in 1980.

Active in the peace movement both artistically and politically (Bed In, 1969)

Beginning in the 1990s once again involved in exhibitions

2000 fist comprehensive retrospective

2009 honored for her life’s work at the Venice Biennale

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Yoko Ono worked from the very beginning conceptually and multi-disciplinarily. Her works emerge from so-called Instructions, which the artist herself ascribes to the categories of music, painting, event, poetry, object, film, dance and architecture. Based on the Instructions various forms of conceptual painting emerged in the 1960s, including Painting to Be Stepped On, a painting that was placed on the floor and that was explicitly meant to be stepped on. Furthermore other objects were created out of every day materials and/or Plexiglas.

Her live performances took place above all in the context of the concerts and events organized by George Maciunas and other Fluxus artists, including the famous Cut Piece (1964), in which Ono sat motionless on the stage and invited the audience to cut the clothing off her body, piece by piece.

In 1966 Ono began working with video and film. For Film No. 4 (Bottoms) she filmed the backsides of numerous male and female volunteers, a humorous »portrait« of her time and her milieu. In her most successful film, Rape (1969), a cameraman followed a young woman through London, who on account of the ruthless and violent gaze of the camera lost control and panicked. Harassment and existential fears were revealed in a brutal manner.

In the 1970s and 1980s Ono worked less in the visual arts and devoted herself more to her collaborative projects with John Lennon. In the 1990s she intensified her artistic activities once again and increasingly made expansive installations, often with a participatory character.

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Author: Lisa Beißwanger

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Music

Music

As the daughter of an educated concert pianist (albeit working as a banker) Ono received »classical-Western« piano and singing lessons and visited kabuki theater with her parents. In the 1950s she made contact with New York avant-garde musicians and composers such as Stefan Wolpe, John Cage and David Tudor. In 1955 she developed her first concepts and stagings between music and performance. In 1960 avant-garde concerts organized by La Monte Young took place in her New York loft. The 1960s included numerous appearances and stagings in the context of Fluxus concerts. At that time, in the early 1960s, Ono didn’t yet make a clear distinction between musical and visual works. Instructions or Scores were acted out either by Ono herself or by others.

Through John Lennon she came in contact with pop music from 1966 on. Numerous recordings and publications as artist duo followed. Their first collective album was Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins from 1968, and Ono’s first solo album, Fly, appeared in 1971. Characteristic for Ono was exhausting the spectrum of her voice between vocals and noise, something between screaming, coughing and squawking.

In 1966 she began to distinguish between musical and visual works. The Plastic Ono Band was founded in 1969, one of the first super rock groups with alternating members, including Ringo Star and Eric Clapton. Many singles and full-length records followed, as did performances, most together with John Lennon, like Live Peace in Toronto in 1969.

After Lennon’s death in 1980 Yoko Ono’s pop-musical work went through many phases, deploying many syntheses and technical innovations. She increasingly published her music in digital format. Still today Ono plays numerous concerts. An exceptional feature of these concerts is the multiple collaborations with other musicians, for instance Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, Antony/Anohni, Rufus Wainwright, Peaches and Lady Gaga.

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Author: Lisa Beißwanger

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Yoko Ono

Voice Piece for Soprano, 1961

MoMA, New York, summer 2010, with Yoko Ono, 2:25 min

The Instruction for Voice Piece for Soprano (1961) are:


»Scream

1. against the wind

2. against the wall

3. against the sky«


Everyone can interpret perform this piece themselves. Ono has performed the piece at various places, including as participatory installation with an open microphone in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Author:

Lisa Beißwanger