Yoko Ono: Have you seen the horizon lately?

04.04.98 – 30.05.98

Yoko Ono: Have you seen the horizon lately? was a Museum of Modern Art Oxford touring exhibition curated by Chrissie Iles. It featured a selection of Yoko Ono’s photo works, performances, films, installations, conceptual works, objects, paintings, and sound works created over a period of thirty-eight years, as well as a new installation work commissioned especially for the occasion. The exhibition explored several of the predominant subjects of Ono’s practice, including audience participation, sexual politics, and the everyday.

Inspired by the relation between the visual arts and John Cage’s durational approach to music, the series of paintings and objects created in the 1960s explored the relationship between the object and the event. ‘These works were originally expressed as written instructions to be performed. They often included a transgressive element or one which focused attention on an action or phenomenon by asking the viewer to think of it differently, to do something which went against conventional practice or behaviour’. [Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition guide, 1998]

Performance and language were central to Ono’s practice; in many cases, her works involved the artist’s and/or the viewer’s participation. For example, AMAZE (1971) was a transparent perspex maze through which viewers were invited to talk as a metaphor of our passage through life. Another work consisted of a telephone cabin installed inside the exhibition space to which from time to time (no one knew exactly when) Ono would ring from the other side of the Atlantic and talk to whoever picked up the phone, engaging visitors in intermittent conversations.

In her films, she used the body and various photographic techniques to direct attention to how and what we see. As was written in the exhibition guide at the time, ‘taking the human body as her central concern, she explores the properties of film as an image-recording medium, the camera as an instrument for observation that is both detached and mediated and the end product, the film, as a manipulated, composed and value-laden construction.’ [Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition guide, 1998] Among the films in the show, Bottoms (1966) featured a sequence of close-up moving images of named male and female bottoms; Rape (1968/69) explored the invasion of privacy and ideas surrounding violation and abuse; and Fly (1970) showed an insect moving over a naked female body, challenging perceptions of scale.

The more recent works in the exhibition were her photographic pieces such as Portrait of Nora (1997), a computer-manipulated self-portrait that functions as a metaphor for female survival against the odds, reflecting on the complex relationship that women have with male power and authority.

Marieta Guzman – Fruitmarket Archive Intern, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2022


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