OPEN YOUR BOX!
YOKO’S BOX OF SMILE
By Madeline Bocaro
“My ultimate goal in film-making is to make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.”
– Yoko Ono 1967
Yoko’s smile-gathering concept became real in 2012 with her request for everyone to upload their smiling image to Instagram and Twitter via her #smilesfilm iPhone app. All the smiles were collected to create “a global string of smiles covering the planet and shooting to the Universe”.
Yoko’s 1968 Film No. 5, (Smile), featured John Lennon in his garden as he looked into the camera. John’s 3-minute shift between a straight face and smile is elongated in super slow motion to over 50 minutes.
The most whimsical art piece by Yoko Ono is A BOX OF SMILE. When you open the lid of her small plastic box and see the mirror inside, you can’t help but smile! YOU have completed the artwork, and your smile will always be there.
When Yoko presented the box to host David Frost on his television show in 1969, he pompously exclaimed, “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”! (John joked, “We thought you’d like it!”)
Yoko talks about her idea for a Smiles film on the David Frost Show in December 1971:
A Box of Smile was conceived in 1967. An edition of 1,170 small plastic boxes inscribed ‘A BOX OF SMILE Y.O. ’71’ in gold were produced in 1971. Sarah Lawrence’s library holds one in their special collection.
A larger cardboard version was made for the John Lennon/Yoko One to One to One benefit concert in New York City on August 30, 1972.
In accordance with Fluxus founder George Maciunas’ wish to keep Fluxus art in print, ReFLUX Editions continued A BOX OF SMILE. In 1984, with authorization from Yoko, the remaining empty 1971 boxes were fitted with mirrors and stamped ReFLUX on the bottom. They were available in black, white and clear.
Yoko admits that it is not always easy to smile.
“It was hard for me, too. After my husband passed away, I tried to smile for my health.”
Yoko is always encouraging us to smile.
“Look at yourself in the mirror and force a smile. It is just awkward at first. But after you keep trying it every morning, one day you will start giving your smile to your whole body … and then giving your smile to people with emotion.”
– Yoko 2012, Serpentine Gallery
For her 1989 retrospective, at the Whitney museum in New York City, a bronze Box of Smile was included amongst all of Yoko’s earlier works which were also presented beside bronzed versions for the occasion.
In 1997 Yoko produced a signed edition of 35 boxes for friends in a blue and white patina in sky pattern, engraved on front: A BOX OF SMILE Y.O. ’67, and on the back, Xmas ’97 Yoko Ono