Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yoko Ono in Shanghai: I LOVE YOU. You Sure About That?

Yoko Ono: FLY Exhibition was...a disaster.
I personally did not know much about Yoko Ono, except the fact that she had been married
to John Lennon and they had led the international peace movement together.
But knowing nothing of her artist life, I had high expectations and was very excited to see her works, in hopes of understanding why she was so famous.
I have to say, even before I saw her works, I was frustrated by the exhibition's organization even before I got there. There was massive confusion of whether it was an invitation-only exhibition, whether the brochure looking thing we got was an actual invitation, or whether everyone can go the opening night. When I called to verify, the employee told me that there was this whole application process in which you have to fill out your nationality, the company you work for, your major (which also makes me wonder, why do they need to know your nationality anyhow?). The funny thing was she seemed to also be confused about this too, not satisfying any of my questions. So when I went to the site, the application process gave off the idea that if you're lucky, you will be selected to go.
But none of this mattered at the end, because first you had to worry about even getting to the front of the door of the exhibition without getting trampled on by the crowd. Oh, but none of this mattered yet, because we were trying to figure out why people were standing around and not in line, only to find out through guessing that there is a video that we must see first, then her speech, then you can go in to the actual exhibition. When we tried to find the organizer or any employee to figure out what was going on, we couldn't find one.
Her "I love you" flashlight code was a whole different story. First, I was fascinated by it. Seeing the video of thousands of people flashing "I LOVE YOU" codes at once, and creating this widespread effect with such a simple idea showed me the immense power of her influence and everyone saying "I LOVE YOU" to each other did at first make me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. But the more I thought about it, the more problems I saw. I felt that she was all about trying to bring universal peace to a world full of hatred and negativity. But, to me, she did a lot of "talk the talk" but not much of the "walk the walk." Everything was so idealistic, and flashing lights at each other isn't exactly going to bring universal peace, if you know what I mean. Just imagine people walking around with flashlights on a daily basis flashing these codes. That is a scary thought, first of all, and just because you flash these codes doesn't mean that the antagonists in our society are going to drop their guns, their hatred, their malice intentions and say, "You know what? I'm sorry. I love you too." Maybe I am being a harsh cynic, but...it was just way too idealistic for my taste.
Her speech, as well, was a disappointment. Being someone who is so famous and well known, I figured she would discuss reflective and profound messages that would really inspire me about her works as an artist, or the messages--maybe about world peace--that she would reflect through her artwork. I was also hoping she can talk a little bit about her work inside the actual exhibition. However, her making an appearance and saying "I love you. I love Shanghai" left me with one reaction: "HUH?"
The crowd itself was very artificial. This was the most crowded exhibition I have ever been to, anywhere. But I felt like a lot of them went for fun, not to appreciate or understand what she had to present. There she is saying that there is so much hatred in this world, and that people should love each other, and while the crowd was flashing these lights that stand for "I LOVE YOU," they were acting in complete hypocrisy--pushing and shoving, pulling people's hairs, causing people fall but not bothering to pick them back up. I LOVE YOU? It certainly did not seem so. I felt like there was also a lot of ignorance in the crowd, people didn't really care about her art work or what she had to say. Many seemed to just come because she was famous. One girl in the crowd completely stepped onto the coffin & tree installation, impatiently trying to get through the crowd, and ended up cracking it, which also made me go, "uh...WHAT"
I did really like that specific installation. The meaning behind it was valuable, if I understood it right. The wooden things were coffins that were meant to commemorate the lives of everyone who died as a result of war, violence in the world, etc. Another interesting characteristic of this installation is that if you notice carefully, they are all of different sizes representing children, bigger people, smaller people. The trees that are placed where the heads lay was also interesting. I read somewhere that these growing trees symbolize the life represented in their faces before they died. And maybe, it could also show how they will still live on to represent the need for peace. The concept of the trees being local to the place it is exhibited is very interesting as well. I really liked that idea.
Overall, I was frustrated and annoyed at how poorly organized Yoko Ono's exhibition was from start to end. Many of my friends left before they can even get into the exhibition because they were sick of how rude the crowd was pushing and shoving, ironically while holding the "I LOVE YOU" flashlights representing exactly the opposite. Letting these belligerent people in little by little in a place where there wasn't even a line was also a bad idea. Overall, there was a lot of confusion, frustration, and a lot of.. hatred. not.. LOVE.

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