Each week we pay homage to a select “Original Creator,” an iconic artist from days gone by whose work influences and informs today’s creators. These are artists who were innovative and revolutionary in their fields—bold visionaries and radicals, groundbreaking frontiersmen and women who inspired and informed culture as we know it today. This week: Yoko Ono.
Since she first emerged as an important part of the bohemian art scene in the 1960s, Yoko Ono has been working to keep the avant garde moving forward, pushing it to resist the static banalities that have forever accumulated in its wake. One way that she has always stayed true to her avant garde inclination is by collaborating with like-minded artists who share her affinity towards activism and an unwillingness to engage with stale ideas, forever pushing the cultural discourse into uncharted territory.
Ono amplified the intensity of her work through collaboration, working with the loosely associated Fluxus group in the early 60s. She was an early proponent of conceptual and performance art in the New York scene and, years before meeting John Lennon, collaborated with experimental visionaries like John Cage and Ornette Coleman.
Later on, Ono’s musical collaborations with John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band, not only cemented her name and reputation as an experimental artist, but also completely redefined John Lennon as a musician (though, sadly, not always for the better, according to some fans). Whether or not she can be held responsible for The Beatles’ break-up, her influence inspired Lennon to break free from the British invasion mold that had been created for him and create something completely new, embracing a more avant-garde path and using his celebrity for activism.
Today, Ono continues to create, question and contribute to the art world and, likewise, seek out other creators for collaboration, striving to constantly push the cultural discourse forward. She’s released seven albums since 2000, worked closely with her son Sean Lennon to release a book of drawings from her teenage years, and has performed with artists like Lady Gaga, to name just a few of her recent projects.
Bed-Ins for Peace (1969)
Just five days after their wedding, Yoko Ono and John Lennon posted up in their honeymoon hotel room in protest of the Vietnam War. They called the protest a “Bed-In”. The two of them sat in the bed for a week, speaking with visiting journalists and answering phone calls from various media groups. Though the “bed-in” was intended as a mere protest, critics have been known to refer to it as performance art.
Wish Tree (1996)
In 1996, Yoko Ono introduced “Wish Tree,” a collaborative project between her and anyone else who chooses to participate. Participants simply write a wish on a piece of paper and tie that piece of paper to the wish tree. The exhibition has been featured in galleries all over the world, and since its original opening, Ono has collected over one million wishes.
In June, Yoko Ono introduced #smilesfilm, a large-scale collaborative project that invites anyone around the world to upload a photo of their smile using hashtags. The idea dates back to 1967, when Ono expressed her desire to “make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.” It wasn’t until social-media websites like Facebook and Instagram came along that Ono was able to create something tangible out of this prescient idea.
Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore Perform “Mullberry” (2010)
Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth fame) recently announced that on September 25, they will release a six track album entitled YOKOKIMTHURSTON. If you’re curious about what sort of music this trio might devise, here’s a single they released in June. As the track and this video of the group performing “Mulberry” makes clear, this collaboration will be full of new and surprising sounds from all three artists.