Ono Chapter 1

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(Einleitung , Vorstellung von Yoko Ono, Erklärung des Zusammenhangs und Hintergrundes für Yoko Onos Besuch)

Yoko Ono: Hello. I am here because I was explained that this is an Academy of art and the students here are all people who want to be artists, or who are already artists. And I think that it is very nice to meet people who are really wanting to make a career and a life out of art. I want to encourage them and inspire them and also maybe I'll be inspired, too. These days, the world is in a very intense situation, politically, and people tend to forget about the importance of art. And I think that art is very important. Especially if you want to keep creating a peaceful world. Art is a very important part of the peace industry. So, therefore I came here to speak to the students and also to see what they are doing. It is really nice to be able to have an exchange with them. Thank you. If there is any question, go ahead.

D.B. Any questions?

Question: For me the instruction pieces seemed to be a kind of intention to structure the public sphere.

Y.O. Well see, the instruction idea was not so foreign for me because I used to create music with musical scores, you know, writing music. And in music, you write scores and other people perform it. And even after you pass away, like Mozart or Beethoven, people perform the work by interpreting the instructions. In that sense it's almost like music, but without the scores, just by words. And I came up with the idea because, one: on a musical level I thought it was very interesting to be able to create a score that is not with those – we call it onpu – you know these black dots, you know; because there is a limitation to that. And I was listening to the birds singing in the morning when I woke up in bed and the bird was singing around my bedroom and I thought: it's so beautiful. But you cannot translate it into musical scores because it's so beautiful, but it has intricate rhythms and intricate bends in the sound. So I thought, well, you know, what do you do about it? Oh, you can just make an instruction of it, you know, it's easier that way. So that's how I thought of the music. With the lighting piece, I thought it is an interesting idea, but it doesn't fit anywhere. It was not a painting, it was not a novel, it was not a short story it was not a poem, what do you do about it? So, I just wrote an instruction of it. And that is how it started to happen. And also in sculpture and painting I realized that there are many ideas that I have that I cannot realize. Sometimes because it was too expensive or, most of the times it was because ... I'm not a very mechanical person, so I thought »Well, I can't do this one. Okay, well, I'll write it down, the idea, and somebody can do it for me.« That is how these instructions happened... in a different theory, rather...

D.B. Further questions?


D.B. I just have one question. We will have many opportunities to discuss with the students later on. I am curious about audiences, I said it without really having thought much about it, but it's really true, that through the different disciplines you worked with, you reached very different kinds of audiences. Is art a universal language for you or are there different things when you work with music, with pop music or when you work with art, which has been linked to the big avant-garde tradition, which, even if it's well known, is still a rather small thing in the society? Is that being an important drive for you, to reach beyond the art world or has that just happened, so to say?

Y.O. Well, I never thought hat I was inside the art world. Because, in a way, I was always an outsider. Critics didn't think of me as an artist. So I was not in the art world with the critics' protection. So I – in that sense I was blessed with freedom, freedom of being an outsider. And so I can do anything I want instead of being confined to the usual method of expressing oneself within the art world. So I did it my way.

D.B. Very specific, rather small question: twenty minutes from here is Wiesbaden, which was a kind of centre for the Fluxus movement. And you are often mentioned in relationship to Fluxus. And when we read about it now in the school and we look at old catalogues, we see invitation cards and your name is in there, often with Joseph Beuys and many other people. Did you see yourself as a Fluxus artist?

Y.O. If there is any movement that is close to my idea, yes, Fluxus is one of them probably. But there are some people who think that my work is very surrealistic, conceptual, etc., etc. There are many labels that you can put on my work. What happened with Fluxus was that I was doing these concerts in Chamber Street in a loft of mine. And it became very, very popular. Among the artists, not so much in the world. Many people started to come, it's an ordinary loft, so if 200 people came, that's big. And I didn't now it at that time – may be I was introduced, I don't know – but George Maciunas came to the concert and he was very much inspired by it and he wanted to create exactly the same thing in Midtown, which he did. And then he decided that that should have a name, a name of the movement. I was opposed to that, because I said – you know, it's not like twenty artists got together and proclaimed a movement. Just George Maciunas wanted to do that. »Oh this is great, so let's have a name«... He said, you should think of that name. I said, no, I am not doing that, because I don't agree with you. The next morning he came to me and he said, listen, this going to be the name of the movement. It's a great name. It's Fluxus! And he showed me the word Fluxus in a dictionary. And I thought »Okay, well...«. I wasn't that interested.... But when I think about it, he was very, very clever, very intelligent – to name it as a movement. Because now, because of that, many of the artists who are thinking the same way, all come into the Fluxus movement and the Fluxus movement is going to go on forever. It's beautiful. If it didn't have a name, I don't know what would have happened. So I was wrong and he was right.

D.B. I read a nice essay some days ago by Gunnar Kvaran who is over here, a curator who did a big show with you, where he said that your art gives us breathing space, that the artworks give us freedom, so to say. They don't dictate exactly. We are part of them as an audience. We are participants in a different kind of way. How did that idea start? I mean, all work needs an audience, but your works really need an audience and give a kind of task to the audience.

Y.O. Well, I don't know if you really need an audience. I never thought of it as something that I want to appeal to a certain crowd of people or group of people. Whenever I have an idea, inspired with an idea, just put it down and: It's almost like cooking, you know, if you have a recipe, you share it with somebody but you don't really think about who is going to make that dinner. Okay, you just put it down and you put it out. So some people want to do it, some don't want to do it. That's all.

D.B. Many happenings and artworks that relate to groups of people are about being together. But I also read a quote from you where it said, no it's actually about being alone or it's about the fact that in the end, you are alone. //Y.O. In what work?// ... that happenings are often about being together, but in a quote I found a nice quote of you where it said, it is actually rather... »it is not a get-togetherness, as most happenings are but dealing with oneself«.

Y.O. Yes, dealing with oneself is not being alone, it's slightly different. It's about confronting yourself in a way. And it is a very interesting thing to do, to confront yourself, because most of us don't want to confront themselves. I just wanted to say that I am really happy that you are all here because you are interested in art and not so much interested in the Beatles. The reason why I am very happy is because more and more, people are not interested in art. It is very important that we start to become interested in art again. Because... unless the peace industry becomes just as liable as the war industry, we will always have war. Right now, the world is full of confrontations and struggle, violence. All that has to disappear for us to have good fun and a nice living together. And so for that it is important that we transform our energy into something that is beautiful, and that is art. And so let's all of us... we all have some anger, memory of pain, sorrow and sadness, and conflict with our friends or people that we know. Let's try to transform that energy into something creative, something that we can share in terms of a beautiful feeling or emotion or idea and that, I think, is art. So I am very happy that you are here. You are part of the people who will propagate art, I think. Thank you.

D.B. Thank you so much.

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