Yoko Ono

a yoko ono biography


A dancing heart

Yoko Ono in her interview to Michael Bracewell in 1996 (The Guardian): "True freedom is freedom of the spirit, and you can't overburden yourself with negative thinking, because negative thinking, whether it's a grudge against somebody or the hurt that you carry, only hurts you. When John passed away, I was angry and I was sad - it was the most incredibly frightening time and I was confused because I thought that we'd been living right. But then I realised that this was eating me up, literally eating my body up, and I had to refuse the negative emotions... I think the rule of the game is: if you don't forgive, you're not forgiven either."

In the late 1980s Yoko Ono began to re-interpret many of her works from the past decades, for instance by re-creating her early art pieces in bronze in her exhibition The Bronze Age. In the 1990s Yoko Ono concentrated on making installations, art objects and conceptual photography. In 1990 an exhibition of her artwork and films, In Facing, opened at Riverside Studios in West London. Over a next five weeks, a dozen Lennon/Ono movies were given a rare public showing. Also her musical career continued in the 1980s with her solo albums Season Of Glass, It's Alright (I See Rainbows) and Starpeace, and in 1992 the compilation consisting of 6 CDs of Yoko's music called Onobox was released. In 1994 Ono's moving sound-collage Georgia Stone, which included brief extracts from one of Lennon's final interviews, was released on the John Cage tribute album called A Chance Operation. In 1995 a bizarre recording session at Paul McCartney's home studio linked the McCartney and Lennon families in music. The day's work produced Hiroshima Sky Is Always Blue, an Ono composition. The experimental piece was intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. In 1995 her critically acclaimed album Rising was released. Yoko Ono has also engaged in two concert tours (one which featured her and John's only son Sean leading the backup band IMA) and composed two off-Broadway musicals -- a play by Ron Destro, Hiroshima, and her own musical New York Rock.

Yoko Ono to Michael Bracewell in 1996 (The Guardian): "When I make music or artworks I'm not really in control, because I'm just passing on messages in my mind. And sometimes I get frightened because I think, `What did I say?' But you know the Yes painting? It's a ceiling painting and you have to climb up a ladder to read it with a magnifying glass, and it says "Yes". I never knew that I was saying "yes" to John; John, of course, took it like it was a message for him, and it was."

YES Yoko Ono

In 1997 Yoko Ono opened her great retrospective exhibition Have You Seen The Horizon Lately? in MoMa, Oxford, which then toured in several cities in Europe. On display were 70 artworks, the earliest of them dating back to the early 1960s, and the most recent ones were from the 1990s. An exhibition of John Lennon's lithographs also began it's tour around the world in the 1990s. In October 2000 YES Yoko Ono, the first American retrospective of the work of pioneering avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, opened at Japan Society Gallery in New York City. This is one of the biggest art shows by Yoko Ono ever.

Yoko Ono about her art and music in November 2000 to David D'Arcy (Art Newspaper): "I always move on, and I thought that it was great that when I discovered rock and roll, I discovered a whole new world of people - shall we say, entertainment people. In the ivory tower world that I was in, we didn't think of what we were doing as entertainment. When John became extremely successful and famous, he started to feel how much effect his words were having on people. He felt a responsibility to give something more than entertainment. That's what he was doing. And then I came into the picture, and two souls met. I had been doing things like the Bottoms film, and my friends were saying, 'Oh, she's sold out.' They wouldn't invite me to their dinners any more, and I was kind of rebelling against the avant-garde. There was a kind of elitist stagnation I felt in the avant-garde.--"

Her YES Yoko Ono retrospective she commented in 2000 by saying: "There have been so many negative elements in my life that I have tried to activate the positive element. Yes is an expression I've always carried and will continue to carry. My spirit is an outsider, perhaps because I am Asian and a woman as well. There is an organic element in my work that is not easy to understand. My work is just part of my soul, but there's no linear presentation of it."

In 2001 Yoko Ono released the album Blueprint For A Sunrise which was a critical success.

The year 2002 began for Yoko Ono with her early 70s' song Open Your Box becoming a dance hit: cutting-edge DJs started to remix Yoko Ono's music for new ears and minds to enjoy. Independent News offered a nutshell analysis of this phase in Yoko Ono's musical career: "Yoko Ono is in vogue with young clubbers from Los Angeles to London, and winning a rapturous reception on a whole new scene which is as hip to the Beastie Boys as it might be to the Beatles."

On October 9th 2002, which would have been John Lennon's 62nd birthday, Yoko Ono inaugurated the LennonOno Grant for Peace. "John was a man of peace, and he was always working for it - and he's still working for it, I think, through his songs and his statements. And I just wanted to honor that, and to remind people of what he was," Yoko said in an interview with The Associated Press before the awards ceremony.

On October 9th 2007, which would have been John Lennon's 67th birthday, Yoko Ono unveiled Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland.

"Learn from my mistakes"

In an interview Yoko Ono gave in Helsinki 1999 (Anna magazine, translated from Finnish by Sari Gurney) she was asked when was the last time she was happy, she answered: "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."

In 1997 Yoko said in an interview to Rolling Stone: "I don't think that people should follow my footsteps. I really think if they can get some energy and inspiration out of my work, I'm very happy. I would say, "Learn from my mistakes." That's all."


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Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono
Yoko with Sean Lennon in 1982

Yoko Ono
© Reuters 1999

Kyoko, Yoko and Sean
Kyoko, Yoko and Sean in 2000

Yoko Ono
© Tom Haller 2005

© Sari Gurney
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