Yoko Films and talks @ MoMA Part 1 & 2 – July 13 & 15, 2015
By Madeline Bocaro ©
As part of the exhibit Yoko Ono: One Woman Show at the Museum of Modern Art this summer, Yoko also appeared for several events and concerts at the museum. Both nights of her film screenings with Q&As afterwards began with a wonderful montage of films, compiled by Yoko’s archivist. Yoko sat in the front row watching the films along with us.
Although we’ve already seen many of her films, Yoko wanted to present more ‘outtakes’, which was really nice! It began with childhood movies, in which she’s always dancing. Then there were incredible unseen interviews with Yoko from 1966, 1967 (and The Dentist interview, 1968 – about her meeting John at Indica gallery), talking about her art in the exhibit Half A Room. There were films of Cut Piece and Wrapping Event in Trafalgar Square. There were clips from the films; Eye Blink, Freedom, Two Virgins, Smile and Fly…and the full, long version of the trailer for No. 4 (Bottoms) with hilarious dialogue, part of which was shown at her BAM concerts.
In the vintage clips, she spoke of only being concerned about vibration and the metaphysical world. Pointing to Half A Bed, she said that it’s the missing half that is real. When asked to expound about her mentioning this she answered, ‘What did I say?’
Yoko is standing with Apple in 1968 – explaining that when it deteriorates and disappears, the pedestal with the ‘APPLE’ plaque will just be left there like a tombstone.
There was a really cool clip of Yoko & John singing ‘Remember Love’ together on the bed during Bed Peace. It was incredible to see the entire ‘Mrs. Lennon’ sequence from the Imagine movie looking so clear and beautiful – especially J&Y finding each other in the mist at dawn!
A cool vintage film showed Yoko explaining the origin of the name Plastic Ono Band. She is standing next to the actual band ‘sculpture’ that John made with a cassette box and plastic tubes… “John saw that the future would be plastic, and that our minds are all plasticine.” (I think maybe YOKO is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds!) She made sure that we also knew that it was John who ‘switched around’ the letters in Beetles to Beatles.
Re: Plastic Ono Band name being John’s idea…
“(John) knew in his head somewhere, that plastic is gonna be something big in our heads!… Both of us knew about plasticity which is very interesting.”
The interviewer’s questions (Chrissie Iles) were tedious. Her long-winded questions derailed Yoko every time. Yoko went off on her own endless tangents, which was much better than actually answering those questions! After the second question, Yoko interrupted to say, ‘I just want to thank everyone for coming now, in case you get bored later and leave or something because you don’t know what we are talking about.’
Yoko said that she is not talented, she is just receiving ideas with her antennae, and we all have antennae that we should use. She is just concerned with presenting a starting point – like an elephant’s tail (as she would always say) – a small part of a big whole to hold onto, then discover the bigger whole attached to it. She expressed extreme isolation and a disconnect with her parents as a child. Yoko’s desire to connect inspired her to help people to communicate. “My life is art, and art is life, and in that, I am always not getting enough, It’s a kind of unfinished situation. So my art is unfinished art, unfinished music…’
Questions from the audience were also totally eluded by Yoko, with responses far from the topic! Yoko took forever to tell an ancient Chinese folk tale (Saiyuuki – Journey to the West) which went totally off course. ‘A monk and an arrogant monkey were traveling to the west with a pig, pork…The monkey thought he could do anything – fly around the world in two minutes or something…then he saw poles in the distance with writing, but really it was just his five fingers.” It was hilarious! It was actually Journey to the West, which she was unsuccessfully trying to tell (about a journey toward enlightenment, rewarded by power and virtue of cooperation). Yoko’s point was that her art has not changed or progressed since she was younger. She is still fundamentally doing the same thing.
I thoroughly enjoy Yoko’s rambling childlike discourses – especially when a bunch of intellectuals are witnessing her, perhaps for the first time! Her mind is running in 100 different directions all the time. She can’t focus on just one question. Yoko has a whole universe in her head, and besides, she is constantly imagining peace!
July 15 – Yoko Films & Talk @ MoMA – Part 2
Tonight’s films were the silent 5.5 minute version of No. 4 (Bottoms). Not as interesting without the funny soundtrack of inhibited participants discussing their bottoms in the longer version made later. Then, the 40-minute film Rape. The actress Eva is followed through the streets of London, into a bar, through a shabby graveyard, and into her apartment, where she is locked in. The relentless pursuit of the camera causes her to (at first) joke with the cameramen, alternatively try to communicate with them, becoming increasingly agitated and trying to escape them – all in her native Hungarian. The language barrier adds to the emotional drama and isolation. In the end she breaks down, internalizing and covering her face with her hands.
Read my story about Yoko’s film Rape here:
The interviewer on the second night was curator Alexandra Munroe. I knew that she would be better than last night’s Crissie Iles, but had forgotten that she is also excessive with superlatives, intellectual adjectives and long-windedness. She even made up words! Luckily, again, Yoko interrupted her many times – to answer, or to NOT answer the actual questions. Yoko even stated (while thanking all the curators present) that she didn’t know that curators could be so intelligent! Again, perhaps her indirect way of commenting on their artsy pretentiousness!
The discussion of the Bottoms (a petition for world peace) was mostly about its censorship. Yoko explained that she had brought daffodils to the censorship bureau to ask for the film to be released. This actually touched the ‘people in power’ in some way, so they granted her an X rating so it could be shown during late night only.
Three audience questions were answered – one from a little kid who wanted a hug. A woman asked what the statement on the back of tonight’s ticket “Surrender to Peace” meant. Yoko answered, “That’s just for your convenience.” The woman pressed for an answer. Yoko said, “I am not giving you instructions, it’s just a suggestion – whatever it means to YOU.” The final question was if she felt ambivalent after filming Rape. Yoko said that she never feels ambivalent.
When asked what happened to the Rape actress, Yoko said that she formed an institution for animals in her native Hungary, and had a hard time finding film roles after Rape. But she neglected to say that Eva was brutally murdered in 2008:
(I had saved this from The Telegraph in 2009 all about Eva’s tragic death)