Yoko Ono

yoko ono in helsinki

Edited and translated by Sari Gurney / AIU

Yoko Ono visited Helsinki during her retrospective exhibition Have You Seen The Horizon Lately?. The way her works were displayed in the Tennis Palace pleased her: "The exhibition is beautiful, minimalistic. This makes me very happy. I hope the visitors will enjoy it, too." Here are excerpts from the interview she gave to the Anna magazine in May 1999.

Have you seen Helsinki lately?

Yoko Ono is asked to pose in her maze titled AMAZE. Dutifully she walks into the centre of it and tries to return by using the same route. Suddenly she gets lost. The group of reporters standing outside tries to guide her back: "Go to the left, go there." "Yes, this resembles life", she laughs as she manages to return. "In life you think you can do whatever you please, because the obstacles are invisible. Eventually you always stumble into something and realise that the direction was forbidden or not possible... I also have moments when I feel insecure or broken. "As a woman I don't feel insecure, just as a human being in general. I feel strong as a woman, because women have always suffered from oppression and abuse. And when someone tries to do something like that to you don't you become stronger than you were a moment ago?" About her work Vertical Memory, which consists of 21 pictures of the same, unidentified man: "In the picture I've combined with my own face the faces of my father, my husband and my son by using a computer. The picture reflects the impact the masculine society has had on my life. From the moment I was born to the moment I will pass away, men have always been present in my life."

Yoko Ono and feminism

"On the level of society it is important to be equal, but otherwise I wouldn't want to be a man. Simply because women are more intelligent than men. We have to be more intelligent because we create human beings and take care of them... A while ago I read of a research, which claimed that the brain cells of women are more complicated than those of men. Women keep complaining about their position in the society, but we must remember that we have chosen it. We have to endure things just because we are able to. We bear a heavier responsibility of life, because we can."

There is an exhibition of Annie Leibovitz's photographs downstairs from Yoko Ono's exhibition in the Tennis Palace. One of the photographs on display is the famous photograph Leibovitz took on the same day John Lennon was murdered: Yoko and John lying on the floor, Yoko fully clothed and John naked in fetal position next to his wife. "At the time the photograph was taken we were very happy. We knew nothing of what would later happen, we were just kidding around. It is a funny photo." Yoko is asked if she has ever suffered from ambition, since as an artist labelled as "fine", she must be up to that par in the future, too, compete with herself. "I have never seen it that way. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I don't have a complex of thinking that I'm not a fine artist. I am fine and wonderful, just like you. We are all fine human beings!"

"Actually, it is interesting how the communication between people has evolved. Nowadays anyone can own and share the world. In the past, there was just one hero, just one guru and just one saint. In the modern world everyone can be heroes, gurus and saints! If two people are having a conversation on the television, nobody regards it as anything special. But a person, who lived two hundred years ago, would think: "Oh, those people must be saints. The modern human being has got experience and wisdom just like the saints used to have. On the other hand, they need these kinds of qualities to survive in the world of today."


Yoko gets excited when she is told that the Tennis Palace used to be a place where people played tennis, as the name suggests. "I hope people like my games as well! It is very interesting how a building's function has changed from a physical game to a game of the mind. The theories of how one should act in life are only theories, and when you try to apply those theories into the real life, you will end up with problems... That is why my works are always unfinished, because my art is an ever-changing process just like life itself. I think it is a very masculine quality to state, that something is ready: "Here it is". As soon as something becomes a status symbol, in me awakens the desire to tear it down and destroy it. Every single theory that claims to be right will surely be destroyed and be surrounded by violence. Because of this, I have never believed in definite things."

Dancing hearts!

"Oh! It is extremely important that we all make things which make our hearts dance. If my heart doesn't dance everyday, it is a serious situation. I'll be very ill. No philosopher or teacher knows what makes your heart beat like that."

When was the last time her own heart danced?

"Right now! Of course the world is built in the way that no one can be completely free. Everyone is districted by responsibilities and obligations, and I am not an exception. I won't say, that forget about everything and go partying in a disco- or of course you can go if you want to. All I'm saying is that you have to find the good things within the limits. I for instance can't wander around the city as freely as you can, I think. Because of various reasons I have to stay alone in my apartment often. And it is like a prison, a comfortable prison, but it's still a prison."

"The most enticing quality of people is that they will do anything to make their hearts dance. If they don't have a pen, they will use their nail. If they don't have paper, they will draw on the walls. On the sleepless nights -when I just toss and turn in the bed, and won't take a sleeping pill because I don't want to- I'll get up and start scribbling down something. And that makes me very happy."



© Anna Magazine 1999

© Sari Gurney
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