Yoko Ono

By: Peggy Nelson
February 18, 2010

A product of post-WWII Japanese society, YOKO ONO’s (born 1933) work has always reflected destabilization and unease. Along with the other conceptual artists of the Fluxus Movement, Ono pioneered the removal of art’s objects of contemplation, encouraging collaboration in the aesthetics of ideas. Her Instruction Pieces (1961-2) removed the paintings from the gallery and left only the index cards — the paintings were to be seen in the mind. Her musical experiments, still challenging to pop-inflected ears, influenced the much less warm-and-fuzzy punk and electronica to come. Even in a time as fast-moving as the ’60s, she was ahead of it: in 1965, she offered 200 shares in herself for $250 each, something that would not be out of place on BoingBoing today. Ono’s life provoked even greater unease than her work; her personal and professional collaborations with John Lennon stressed still-active fault lines of misogyny and racism in the tectonics of progress. More recent projects have ranged over virtual architecture, Twitter, and culture-jamming. But a final note may be apropos: no one can “make you” stay or go. The Beatles broke up with themselves.

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