Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Yoko Ono in Shanghai: flash, flash flash, flash flash flash
I was actually extremely excited to see Yoko Ono in real life. I never knew much about her except that she was John Lennon’s wife and, according to my friend, she was the one who “broke up the Beatles.” I quickly did a Google image search of her before I popped into a cab to head to the opening and I saw pictures of her, very young and VERY hippie looking. So off I went to the exhibition, only knowing that she was an artist who was a hippie who John Lennon fell deeply in love with. I walked into the KE Arts Center’s area and was immediately bombarded with tons of chic, artsy looking people standing around underneath the night’s light drizzle. On the movie screen placed outside along the brick wall was a movie of Yoko Ono’s Onochord’s from all over the world. In the European countries she had a massive following as millions upon millions of fans clamored together to repeat her “I Love You” flashlight messages. It seemed almost cult-like.
The people who I went with to the exhibition were mostly just like me—students with no background in the arts. Their initial reactions to the pieces were overwhelmingly negative. They felt that here Yoko Ono was, promoting peace and love and happiness to the world, and by what means? By turning a flashlight on and off six times? What does that actually do to further her message…how does this make an actual difference? I admit her message seems a bit idealistic and ridiculously unattainable. If she thinks that flashing a light six times to random strangers will make the world a better place, she should definitely take her head out of the clouds. However, maybe I am still not jaded from the reality of the world, or maybe I am just not as cynical as my friends, but I thought the message was really sweet. It was endearing that she was trying to promote love to the world, as it justifies her past as a hippie, and hey, what are hippies better known for than to spread love and peace? Her notion of world peace, love, and happiness is a nice one, but that is all it is. Without a concrete force or action behind her ideas, her ideas don’t ever leave the ground. She appeared at the Shanghai opening, her tiny self in her frail voice, attempting to rile the crowd up by getting them to repeat after her, “I…Love…You.” Maybe it was the rain that took down the crowd’s spirits, or maybe it was a language barrier, or maybe, just maybe the majority of the exhibition go-ers thought the same as my friends did…that her Onochord was a crock of bull. I believe that if it were any other lesser known artist besides Ono, they would never be able to garner the same amount of publicity for this event as she did. Her popularity and famous image bolstered this exhibition to the top of the “Must Sees” on City Weekend and SmartShanghai.com, not the message she was trying to convey. For her to use her image to get her message across is in no means wrong—many people do it for far worse reasons. However, because of her ability to reach the masses, I felt she should have put actions behind her words.
The gallery itself was, like my classmates have said, a great disappointment. After waiting in the rain for 30 minutes, fighting for an admission flashlight for 10 minutes, and being shoved and stepped on repeatedly, I definitely had high expectations. I have been to the KE exhibition space before and I know how big that place is… it’s held way more than the five things she had on display. Like her “I Love You” Onochord, I felt that her works were very idealistic and nothing really jumped up and wowed me. Granted, I felt that the positioning of the coffin boxes outside the exhibit were more exciting than anything I saw in there, because they integrated the outside surrounding areas.
So although I was thoroughly disappointed with “Fly,” partially due to the hour wait in the rain, the celebrity fiend inside me was still excited to see a celebrity…no matter how shoddy her message.