by Sukanya GargOct 05, 2019
The exhibition Liberté Conquérante (Growing Freedom) underscores the cornerstones of action, participation, and imagination in the work of Yoko Ono. The exhibition, which is taking place at Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Montreal, Quebec, is on view until September 15, 2019.
Born in 1933, Yoko Ono is a visionary Japanese-American artist and multi-disciplinary practitioner. As a singer, songwriter, conceptual, multimedia and performance artist, and a peace activist, she has been an instrumental member of the avant-garde group Fluxus, and many movements in the 1960s. Some of the wide variety of her creative pursuits are on display at the exhibition at Fondation Phi.
Spread across both the Foundation's buildings, the first part, The instructions of Yoko Ono, focuses on her ‘instruction’ works that emphasise the role of the visitor in their completion. Among the works presented are text-based instructions such as Lighting Piece (1955), as well as participatory works including Mending Piece (1966), Horizontal Memories (1997), and Arising (2013). The exhibition also includes the work Water Event (1971/2016), which invites 12 artists to participate from Montreal and other parts of Canada.
The second part of the exhibition, The art of John and Yoko, presents the collaborative art projects undertaken by Ono and John Lennon for peace. Among these is the Acorn project, the War is Over peace campaign, and the Montreal bed-in, which marked its 50-year anniversary on May 26, 2019. This part of the exhibition features a variety of stories from people who participated in the bed-in, told in their own voices and words. These often moving accounts testify to the impact of what became a legendary and historic event, one which remains a key reference for the indivisibility of art and life, as well as the importance of non-violent action to inspire political and social change.
The exhibition is not just symbolic of the Ono’s participatory activism over the years, but her present show is accompanied by a letter by Ono titled Arising, urging women from all over the world to send a testament of harm done to them for being a woman, along with an image of their eyes. The testaments and the photograph are subsequently being exhibited as part of the installation Arising in the exhibition at Fondation Phi, and will subsequently travel the world as part of the growing installation. The deadline for the submission is September 15, 2019.
The letter written by Ono titled Arising is reminiscent of one of her earlier works of the same name, which was exhibited in Venice in 2015. Part of the exhibition Personal Structures, the feminist work spoke of awakening women power not in competition to men, but rather than in cohesion. The open call in this exhibition then is not so farther away from her intent then – to awaken, to enable and most importantly to heal.
It is no doubt then that the exhibition wishes to impart Yoko Ono’s massive impact on contemporary art practices, on art reception, and on activism through art. The urgency and spirit of her work remain pertinent and perhaps more important than ever.