Monday, November 24, 2008

Yoko Ono in Shanghai: war is over? not yet

Yoko Ono’s first solo show in Shanghai, “FLY” had its opening this past weekend. Many people believed they were part of an exclusive group who signed up for, or received invitations to, this opening event. To the surprise of hundreds, this was no small gathering. I arrived at the Ke Center to find a U shaped courtyard completely packed with anticipation filled visitors. Yoko Ono herself was on top of the building at the center of the U, reciting “I Love You” to corresponding blinks from a flash-light. One she retreated into the building the crowd was left waiting to be let in. At this point I had managed to work my way into the crowd to the doors of the gallery. Once people started to be let in –just a few at a time- the crowd turned into a crazy, angry mob, all pushing like crazy to try to get closer and to get in. I saw a mother holding an infant get totally knocked over, and others fall only to be trampled over. This to go see an exhibit of work done by a woman professing messages of love and peace but a moment earlier. I was part of a few lucky individuals to get into the space before EVERYONE was let in (I’m convinced that they must have stormed the doors!). Inside there was a collection of works representing different aspects and times of Yoko Ono’s career. It was interesting to see what the show would be like considering the conceptual and performance based nature of Ono’s work. In the end, the gallery was largely empty, with a few works displayed, recreated, or described. It is really hard to do justice to her art and performances without enacting them and without being in certain contexts. Messages were conveyed, and perhaps some picked up on to her ideas, but mostly people seemed to think it was a joke and pointless –they didn’t really see the meanings and intents. The largest element though was the people, the visitors. Typical of what I’ve seen in China, there was a huge crowd of people, pushing, unaware or ignoring those around them. Such disregard for humanity while fighting to see the work of a woman whose art has always been about humanity and connecting society with peace and love and understanding. While I am interested in Yoko Ono’s work and her philosophies, I don’t think they can really be represented in a static gallery setting, especially in China. Perhaps this exhibit shows how far the world still need to go to imagine all the people living life in peace.

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