Yoko Ono

yoko ono ebro


Written by Jorge Artajo

Zaragoza is a city where I spent a big part of my childhood and adolescence (from 9 to 17) in two boarding schools ruled by priests (jesuits and la salle brothers) and it was worse than being in jail, so Zaragoza is a city that I hate and that I always avoid to go. I made an exception because of Yoko Ono.

When I arrived to The "Palacio de Sástago" a Renacentist palace, in Zaragoza's downtown, fit in a very narrow and crowded street, full of people and cars, the three big posters with the words "War is Over! if you want it " made me feel like if I was in the sixties and seventies during the Franco's dictatorship. The street was dark at that moment and I felt scared and happy at the same time when I saw those big posters hanging on the façade of the palace. For me it was something subversive, like if we were in the olden times when we made graffitis on the walls asking for freedom or for the release of political prisoners. I was full of fear, because it reminded me of the time when the police appeared at those moments to arrest people (A lot of people, including myself, had spent two months in jail because we wrote the word "Amnesty" on the walls or we shouted "Freedom and Democracy".) It was very strange to see those big black words on the white blankets and no police taking them away. And like in the past, that fear was mixed with the joy of seeing that other people was thinking like you. Suddenly I felt very happy, because I remembered that now we are living in Democracy and things like this can happen with no problem. Anyway those posters were a perfect entry for this exhibition. Today there is no repression, and there are no policemen destroying it, but these words are still subversive, because they made us think things that we usually forget. These big words raise few very important questions: What are we doing to make a better world? In which way am I responsible for all the things that I critize so easily?

"And then I saw that tree like a big brain with no sex."

In that sense I think this exhibition is still something subversive, because it makes you think things that the whole society is trying to hide or don't like to talk. When I came into the Renacentist cloister of the Palace, I felt welcomed by the three works spread by Yoko Ono: "Morning Beams", "Cleaning Piece / River Bed" and "Wish Tree". The combination of these works with the architecture of the old building create a surreal atmosphere and I felt protected. The noisy street outside that we could see from the inside was not an enemy, but another river that runs with a different rumour. I looked at the nylon beams and the stones with a pacific and satisfied smile. I started reading the messages at the wish tree and it was very funny because I saw that people has very strange wishes, just like me. I laughed at one that said "I wish to be married right now!" first I thought : what a crazy! , but then I thought why not? And at that moment I understood some of the senses of that "Tree". People can show their feelings without fear (I feel very liberal, but surely that person could be intimidated in front of me to say her wish of being married). So I'm a fucking liberal that in the end is repressing people too. On the other hand when I read that message I thought that it was a woman who wrote it. Why? Men, they don't like to be married? And then I saw that tree like a big brain with no sex. A common brain that holds all of our thoughts, wishes and desires. We are one and we share more things than we think.

It was very early in the morning and I was alone so I enjoyed very much all of these inner thoughts for a few minutes, because some people started to get in. I don't like people talking loud in galleries and museums. They don't let me concentrate, and nowadays a lot of people go to exhibitions to kill time (especially if the entry is free, and "Ebro" was free). Anyway I was ready to hate, because I had always hated the people of this city where I was so unhappy. For me they are very conservative and narrow-minded. What a contradiction! I was inside an exhibition that asks for peace and love, loving the works of Yoko and hating the people around me. I was in a catharsis! Papa Freud didn't come to help me, but reality. The tree was full of wishes, it was very hard to see the leaves and the branches, and to put new papers you must to jump three stairs, so an old couple (in their 80's) came to me and asked me if I could hang their wishes in the tree, because it was very hard to them. I was angry but I smiled because they were a very beautiful and gentle couple and while I was hanging one of the wishes I read the other one, and it said: "I wish that nobody has to suffer all the pain that can endure." When they thanked me, the man told me: "It's very good that somebody like this Yoko Ono speaks about and denounces the business of war". At that moment I couldn't stop my tears, and I ran into one of the other rooms of the exhibition because I didn't want to explain to them what my feelings were.

"The victims sometimes could very easily turn into torturers"

The room I entered was the one with "Painting to hammer a nail / Cross version". Three big wooden crosses full of nails were in front of me and to relieve my tension I swear that at that moment I would love to hammer a thousand nails, but the buckets were empty and no sign of nails to hammer so I dried my tears and looked at this very strange piece dedicated to the martyrs of the world. Why did Yoko made us to hammer the martyrs again? This piece evokes very mixed feelings in me. For me the logical thing should be the opposite: the exhibition should start with the crosses full of nails and people should tear off the nails to release the suffering of the martyrs. But I think that this is the game of Yoko: the victims sometimes could very easily turn into torturers.

Beside the three crosses was "The Family Album". I felt very sad when I saw those domestic objects full of blood. They made me think of the news I read in the papers. Here in Spain almost every week a woman is killed by her husband. Two years ago they were only four lines in the inside pages. It was not important. Today, at least the journals speak of every woman who suffers from domestic violence and the government has made some arrangements to protect them. On the other side there is the violence of terrorism (I must confess that in the sixties I felt that the violence of groups like the "Rotten Army", "Weathermen", "IRA" or "ETA" was right. Don't forget that I was living in a fascist country, and repression gives you a different perception of reality. It's very hard to be at night at home and be scared in horror when somebody knocks on your door). Those objects made me think of all the people in Argentina or Chile killed by Videla or Pinochet, I'm certain that their personal belongings started to bleed when they were tortured. These objects made me see also the loneliness inside a home when one of the members of the family is killed, it doesn't matter why. People should stop using violence to resolve conflicts, and all of us are responsible.




Yoko Ono Ebro

© Sari Gurney
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