LEIPZIG – In April 2019 the Museum of Fine Art in Leipzig (MdbK) opened its highly anticipated retrospective exhibition for the Japanese multimedia artist Yoko Ono. The collection is centred around her life’s journey through different phases. Themes involving distinct interactions between human beings, controversial political and social topics and the time she shared with her husband John Lennon inhabit the halls of the museum. 

Yoko Ono visiting her retrospective at the MdbK, image courtesy of MdbK, 2019.

On a blazing summer day in June, the MdbK  in the heart of Leipzig is the place to be when meditating with art is your getaway from the rush of work. As visitors elevate from floor to floor in this venue, the tone of the issues Ono puts out intensifies and evokes fluctuating emotions. This is the first time that a museum experience takes me on such a long emotional journey. From sadness for the world’s political conflicts, to anger fueled by the injustice women around the world go through, and humbleness; the conclusion to every interpretation one could come to for Yoko Ono‘s pieces. 

Yoko Ono is a Japanese-American contemporary artist known for her outstanding artwork based on performance. In the 1950’s, a young and eager Yoko moved to New York with her family, where she started pursuing her degree in arts a few years later. After that, she headed to London for her first ever exhibition in 1966, where she and The Beatles alumni, John Lennon crossed paths and  became inseparable, soon becoming the most recognized couple of late 1960’s. The couple became each other’s muse, which is quite evident in her retrospective at the MdbK

Yoko Ono, We Are All Water, image credit lifeinanalogue 

One of my favourite exhibited works was We are all Water. This installation was inspired by Yoko Ono‘s 1972 song with the same title, and consists of 118 glass bottles that are evenly filled with water. As the curious eye squints closer, the bottles are labeled with famous names like Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. The work teaches us about the similarity of mankind, no matter how one-of-a-kind humans are perceived to be. Our bodies are all consisting of water regardless of what we produce from our lifetimes. 

image credit lifeinanalogue

There always comes a sigh of understanding after Yoko Ono‘s stories have made their way into your mind and heart. The contemporary prodigy continues and dedicates an entire room for a collaborative billboard. She invites her audience from all over the world to send handwritten messages a simple thought to a loved one. 

Ono here revisits the theme of oneness by replicating the Czech Republic-based Lennon Wall inside the museum. The original wall located in Prague is tattooed with quotes, lyrics and images of John Lennon and The Beatles. In her recreation of the wall, Yoko invites the MdbK audience to revive the same writing scenario.

Ono, Three Mounds,i mage credit lifeinanalogue 

In another room, Ono echoes her feminist stance in a recreation of her 1999 installation Three Mounds. The work is made up of  three piles of rubble, titled Country A, Country B and Country C, each representing a group of women victimised by war and oppression.

Yoko and Lennon, If You Want It, Poster, 1969, image credit lifeinanalogue 

Another famous work on display was the 1969 protest poster If you want it!. In 1971, the song Happy Xmas (War is Over) was released by Lennon and Ono in further protest of the Vietnam War. Its lyrics ‘War is over! If you want it!’ became a popular slogan that opposers of the war carried in marches to make their statements. The piece was also a part of the couple’s Bed-Ins For Peace, which was a two-week sit-in in front of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and Fairmont in Montreal. Its purpose was to serve the demands of the protesters justice. 

Yoko Ono, Helmets, 2001, image credit: lifeinanalogue 

With Helmets (2001), the artist commemorates the souls lost in battles sparked by political disagreement. Yoko Ono keeps her audience in the loop of her ideals by inviting them to pick a blue jigsaw puzzle piece from military helmets that hang upside down. Ono here hopes that one day, the sky will be rebuilt with serenity and hope. 

Yoko Ono, A Hole, 2009/2015, Image credit, lifeinanalogue

As a member of the Non-Violence Foundation and being its former ambassador in 2011, Ono continues to advocate for global peace through A Hole. It comprises of a clear bar of glass with a gunshot in the middle of it, causing a shatter effect where people from the two sides of the piece could see through. This is a bold representation of what victims see through a bullet hole, and what they psychologically process.

Yoko Ono, Mend Piece, Porcelain, 1966, Image credit, lifeinanalogue

In interdisciplinary art forms such as Fluxus, artists present an unfiltered, reconstructed version of their life stories. Defined by the Tate Modern, Fluxus is an “international avant-garde collective or network of artists and composers founded in the 1960s and still continuing today”. Fluxes is Latin for the word flow, which emphasises on the purpose of mimicking dadaism. There are no limits to what can be used in terms of material, style or rules when it comes to Fluxus art. 

Growing into a respected name in this genre, Yoko Ono‘s pours her whole heart into Mend Piece. This setup of broken china is the basis to her Mend Piece to John and Mend Piece for the World series. First displayed at the Indica Gallery London in 1966, the debut was a symbol of contribution into fixing what is broken. 

It is easy to guess that with some publicity and awareness campaigns, you could alert people into taking action about making the world a better place. Peace Is Power reinforces the urgency to implement the practicalities of togetherness using a creative medium and ideas that never age. It tells life-changing stories from all temporal dimensions and refreshes the spirit.  Yoko Ono‘s playground is the universe, and the players are us who know that there are no rules to the games she participates in. She showcases a planet of the ultimate “good”, of what life would be like if we constantly cooperated instead of suggesting short-lived solutions. 

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