In 1971, Yoko Ono placed a small ad in the Village Voice announcing her unofficial ‘One Woman Show’ at what she called the Museum of Modern [F]art. When visitors arrived however, there was little indication of her work. A sign outside the museum said the artist had released flies on the museum’s grounds and invited the public to track them as they dispersed all over New York City. Some may argue that this was a subversive metaphor for the liberation of art, having been colonized by institutions; others might say this was the actual show – an instillation intended to engage the audience in interacting with the art itself.
Over 40 years later, an actual exhibition, One Woman One Show 1960-1971 is constructed at the Museum of Modern Art in a more tangible form – you can physically enter the museum’s space and engage with her works. The show brings together approximately 125 of her early objects, works on paper, installations, performances, audio recordings, and films from exhibitions around the world including London and Tokyo.
A series of innovative, radical and countercultural notions which the artist explored are on display in the vigorous exhibition. In one room, Ono’s feminist perspective of mid 20th century society is reflected in her work – a silent film depicting the naked, female form covered in flies. Elsewhere are photos from the early 60s of avant-garde music gatherings she held in her Manhattan loft. And other works include artist and audience interaction pieces where Ono encouraged the viewer to participate. A work entitled Painting to Be Stepped On 1960/1961 directs the viewer to tread upon a canvas placed on the floor – a radical question concerning the division between art and the everyday – an idea that collapses the distinction between artwork and art-spectator intended to bring about a democratic, communal spirit between the artist and viewer.
Also on display are some of the collaborations she did with John Lennon at the end of the 1960s. The duos Bed-In and WAR IS OVER! if you want it (1969) campaigns are a testament to the artist’s un- floundering commitment to world peace.
By Ray Kinsella
Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, May 17 – September 7 2015
The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition Gallery, 6th floor