Yoko Ono


Yoko Ono: Coats, installation view (2010): Images courtesy Haunch of Venison, Berlin.Yoko Ono: Coats, installation view (2010): Images courtesy Haunch of Venison, Berlin.

By Nadja Sayej

Yoko Ono
Haunch of Venison
Sept. 10 – Nov. 13, 2010

Yoko Ono is one of the most accessible people on Twitter. She’ll answer as many questions as possible, especially on "Q&A Yoko Fridays". And, just as she opens herself up online, the 77-year-old epic art superstar really bites the bullet and raises the toughest of questions in this exhibition, Das Gift.

‘Gift’ means poison in German. But, what is poisonous about a peace protest, exactly?

This 17-piece show, seven of which are short films, focuses the spotlight on Ono’s past, including the monumental Cut Piece I from 1965 to new sculptures from 2010, including Heal, a canvas with string and fabric for gallery-goers to mend on their own.

Needless to say, it has been 30 years since John Lennon was fatally shot, and this anti-violence show from his widow is probably best summed up with A Hole from 2009. In the center of the gallery, a shattered piece of glass stands erect with a bullet hole piercing through the core. One can view the bullet hole from two perspectives: the victim’s and the shooter’s. The caption below reads: Go to the other side of the glass and see through the hole.

Yoko Ono: A Hole (detail, 2010)Yoko Ono: A Hole (detail, 2010)A chilling vibe continues in Coats (2010). Seven fabric cloaks – the kind from the Jack the Ripper era – each have bullet holes through their fronts and backs. For a fall show, where most visitors arrive at the gallery in their winter coats, we’re just a bullet away from being put on the hanger and becoming a shadow of our former selves. These coats are truly haunted.

The one obnoxious thing about this show, though, is the four-minute video entitled Shadows (2010). Here, we have a fuzzy, black-and-white war film with unidentified soldiers shooting insurgents on the ground, as birds caw from afar. It remains mysterious, like a series of anonymous tombstones in a graveyard with no name.

On the second floor of the gallery, the mood changes with a piece entitled Berlin Smile, which urges the crustiest of critics and snootiest of gallery-goers to step before the lens and crack a big smile as a petition for peace. By including the audience in a way that no other artist does, she gains your trust as soon as you walk into the space.

As Ono posted on Twitter earlier in November: “Life is a form of wishing. Keep breathing. Keep loving. Keep wishing.” Throughout this incredibly soulful show, Ono’s gift, in many ways, is helping us heal our own pasts and pave the way for our futures. It seems that she has already done this for herself. Through her art, she provides us with reasons to do the same.

Nadja SayejNadja Sayej is the host of ArtStars and is out to uncover the Seven Unsolved Mysteries of the Art World — one country, one art scene at a time, Gonzo-style. She writes for the Globe and Mail and the New York Times, as well as a monthly column for EnRoute magazine. Follow her adventures at twitter.com/artstars.