Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy 80th Birthday, Yoko Ono!

photograph of Yoko Ono is from here
Below is a collection of three recent news articles about the one and only Yoko Ono. Monday, February 18th is her 80th birthday. Happy Birthday, Great Woman/Artist/Activist!! Thank you for decades of your creativity, sensitivity, and strength.  Love, Julian

Before we get to the articles, immediately below are sister and brother, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, singing "Happy Birthday" to Yoko Ono in English and German--and she's there, in Berlin!!! Her son Sean Ono Lennon is MC'ing the event. You get to hear him briefly at the end.

See *here* for more on that special concert for her.

(Please click on the article titles to link back to their source website.)

Yoko Ono turns 80 with no thought to slowing down

February 16, 2013|By John Timpane

On Monday, Yoko Ono, a collaborator with everyone from John Cage to John Lennon to Dirty Loud, will turn 80. She'll be a rocktogenarian. They say it's her birthday. Happy birthday to her.

Artist, poet, musician, philanthropist, activist, performance/conceptual art pioneer, Ono is now a world-beating disco diva, having enjoyed nine consecutive No. 1 hits on the Billboard Dance charts. She's become a favorite artist for the mashup/remix DJs of the moment.

"I say I'm a lucky girl," Ono says by e-mail.

An explosion of Ono-related activity greets her 80th. There's a bunch of books. Of her own work, there's the lovely Yoko Ono: An Invisible Flower, of drawings and one-line poems, and The Infinite Universe at Dawn. And Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies, by Nell Beram and Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky.

There are art retrospectives around the world, including Half-A-Wind Show, which opened Friday at the Schirn Kuntshalle in Frankfurt, Germany, from which it will tour the world.

All of her albums will be reissued this year. A new one's in the works with her floating orchestra, the Plastic Ono Band.

The indie band tUnE-yArDs has released a 10-inch single with a new version of her 1972 rocker "We're All Water" and a remix of her 1973 tune "Warrior Woman." It's to benefit the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, which funnels aid to the region hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Many musicians of the last 40 years look to Yoko Ono as a pioneer and idol. She is widely revered by punk rockers as one of the first to do real punk. New Wavers see her as a mom to the movement.

She has cowritten and released a new dance tune, "Hold Me," with DJ Dave Aude, with remixes by Dirty Loud, Emjae, Tommie Sunshine, and R3hab. Lady Gaga's a Yoko Ono scholar, as are RZA and Polyphonic Spree.

Sandy. Fracking. Peace. The Beatles. Punk. Disco. Even to her, it must seem surreal sometimes.
"I wandered into doing music with the most prominent musicians in avant-garde, jazz, rock in history, and now this," she writes.

Her first husband, Toshi Ichiyanagi, was an avant-garde composer. Together, they performed with John Cage. Her friend Ornette Coleman helped invent free jazz. She brought to John Lennon's music things she'd been up to for decades already.

As for the music of 2013, she likes the creativity and sonic iconoclasm of the mash-up generation.
"I think the producers in the dance world are the stars now. They bring over 10 thousand music lovers to the festivals, whenever they decide to do one. That's because their field of music is creating a revolution in music. I respect them and love the field."

She and the planet have seen many revolutions since her birth in 1933 in Tokyo. Her father was an international banker, and the family moved frequently, to San Francisco in 1935, back to Japan in 1937, to New York in 1940, back to Japan in 1941.

Twelve-year-old Ono huddled in a shelter during the March 9, 1945, firebombing of Tokyo (though in a distant neighborhood). Her family saw hard times for a few years, but by the early 1950s, they had moved to New York, and Ono was at Sarah Lawrence College, where she excelled at music theory and sight-singing.
Ono was a regular at the bohemian/Beat gatherings and loft concerts of the 1950s, forerunners of the "happenings" of the 1960s. Her 1969 Bed-Ins with Lennon, protesting the Vietnam War, were but one stop in a lifelong activism for peace. Her Imagine Peace Tower, a column of skyward searchlights on Viey Island near Reykjavik, Iceland, will light up Monday for her birthday. On her Twitter account, Ono encourages people to tweet the Tower (@IPTower) with good thoughts.

She and son Sean Lennon launched Artists Against Fracking in July. They and actress Susan Sarandon did a protest tour last month of Pennsylvania fracking sites such as Franklin Forks.

You have to ask: Where does she get the energy?

"When you are in love," Ono says, "when you are crazy about something and doing it because of that, there is no scheduling challenge, and it is never a burden. . . . I get the energy from loving what I do."
Could anybody really write her biography? "I don't think it is that necessary to have a biography of me," she says. "One will never be able to check the whole of me. Even I couldn't."
Contact John Timpane at 215-854-4406
or, or follow on Twitter, @jtimpane.
___ (c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at Distributed by MCT Information Services

Oh Yoko! Ms. Ono at 80

February 18 is Yoko Ono’s 80th birthday—it’s a day to celebrate her art, music and activism. She’s done more in the last year than most of us do in a decade: campaigned against fracking and honored Julian Assange; mounted a major retrospective of her art in London last summer at the prestigious Serpentine Gallery, and another, bigger one in Frankfurt last week at the celebrated Kunsthalle Schirn; and made music with the Plastic Ono Band.

The anti-fracking campaign has been her biggest political undertaking in several years. First there were the billboards and full-page ads in The New York Times (and also The Nation): “Imagine There’s No Fracking”—addressed to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, signed “Yoko and Sean” (her son, Sean Ono Lennon).

But the anti-fracking campaign involves a lot more than billboards. She organized Artists Against Fracking, and signed up more than 200 people, including Salman Rushdie, Jeff Koons, Alec Baldwin, Martha Stewart, David Geffen, Anne Hathaway, Jimmy Fallon—and Lady Gaga, with her 34 million Twitter followers. In Albany in January she delivered an anti-fracking petition to Governor Cuomo with more than 50,000 signatures. Also in January she and Sean and Susan Sarandon led a bus tour of Dimock, Pennsylvania, where the local water supply has been contaminated by fracking. And now she is running a new TV ad.
She explained the problem with fracking concisely in The New York Times letters column in December: “Evidence shows that there is no amount of regulation that can make fracking safe.… 6 percent of the wells leak immediately and 60 percent leak over time, poisoning drinking water and putting the powerful greenhouse gas methane into our atmosphere… We need to develop truly clean energy, not dirty water created by fracking.”

And the campaign had a victory last week, when Governor Cuomo announced a delay in the decision on fracking for more study of health effects. The New York Times story quoted Donald Trump as spokesman for the pro-fracking forces, and Yoko as the voice of the opposition.

“Imagine There’s No Fracking” of course recalls a certain song that begins “Imagine there’s no heaven,” which in turn was based on Yoko’s 1964 book Grapefruit, with its conceptual art “instructions”: “imagine one thousand suns in the sky…” The anti-fracking billboards also recall her antiwar activism in the 1960s, when she and Lennon put up billboards in Times Square in 1969, and then in cities all over the world: “War is Over: If You Want It.”

On another front, she honored Julian Assange at a public event in Manhattan on February 3.  At her annual Courage Award ceremony, she told an audience of activists, artists and some diplomats that “Julian Assange took a courageous step by rightfully returning what belongs to the public domain. For that reason, I believe we need to stand behind him.” Assange, who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, accepted the award via two of his legal counselors: Baltasar Garzón Real of Spain—he’s the prosecutor who pursued Pinochet for crimes against humanity—and Michael Ratner, the legendary President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who delivered Assange’s acceptance speech to the audience that included Laurie Anderson, John Waters, Lou Reed and Daniel Ellsberg.

Earlier in 2012 Yoko honored Russia’s feminist punk band Pussy Riot, whose members are currently in jail after criticizing Vladimir Putin. She also paid tribute to Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003 while she was protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Then there are the retrospectives of her career as an artist, a career which began before the Beatles and continues today, fifty years later.  From the beginning she has mixed conceptual art and performance art. Her work has been playful and sometimes painful, and includes films as well as those “instructions” that require the viewer’s participation.

One of my favorite recent discoveries was a piece in the highly-regarded land art group show, “Ends of the Earth,” last year in LA at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I had never thought of Yoko doing work related to people like Robert Smithson of Spiral Jetty. But the land art show opened with Yoko’s Sky TV from 1966: an old TV set broadcasts a live feed, from a video camera on the roof, of the sky above the museum. It’s surprising and delightful, and “real” in way that’s different from everything else in the museum. It’s also a pioneering work of video art. (Sky TV is a permanent installation in New York City at the Asia Society.)

And we have her music—especially the unforgettable “Walking on Thin Ice” from December, 1980. The “Thin Ice” video is part of the Frankfurt retrospective, along with Sky TV.

One more thing that made this past year a good one: for those who were still wondering whether Yoko broke up the Beatles, Paul McCartney declared officially that she did not. When John met Yoko in 1968, he explained, “part of her attraction was her avant garde side.… She showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him. So it was time for John to leave”—but “he was definitely going to leave, one way or another." The story was headline news.

And of course we have Lennon’s wonderful songs about her: from the 1969 song about their wedding, that begins “Standing on the dock in Southhampton” (the Beatles’ last number-one hit), to Lennon on the 1971 Imagine album, singing “In the middle of the night I call your name…” to 1980’s Double Fantasy, and “Even after all these years/I miss you when you’re not here…”

To celebrate her 80th birthday she’s playing a live concert in Berlin at the legendary Volksbuhne, the “People’s Theater,” with the current Plastic Ono Band, headed by Sean.

Happy Birthday, Yoko!

Yoko Ono retrospective opens in Frankfurt

The largest-ever retrospective of works of Yoko Ono, once described by her late husband John Lennon as "the most famous unknown artist in the world", opened Friday in Frankfurt's Schirn Kunsthalle.

Ono, who turns 80 next week, "is a unique, indeed perhaps even a mythical figure, not only in the art world, but in the field of music and the peace and feminist movements as well," said the museum's director Max Hollein.

Most people probably know Ono as the wife and widow of the Beatle, John Lennon who was shot dead outside his New York apartment in 1980.

And the two famously staged "Bed-Ins" in 1969 as a non-violent protest against war.

But Ono, born on February 18, 1933, was an avant-garde conceptual artist in her own right long before she met Lennon and was associated with the likes of composer John Cage and the founder of the Fluxus contemporary art movement, George Maciunas.

"She is familiar to practically everyone, yet only very few people are fully aware of the outstanding artistic oeuvre she has created. Yoko Ono's 80th birthday offers us an ideal opportunity to change that," Hollein said.

The exhibition, entitled "Half-a-wind show. A retrospective", surveys around 200 objects, films, spatial installations, photographs, drawings and textual pieces from the past 60 years of Ono's career.

It pays particular attention to works from the 1960s and 1970s, featuring groundbreaking works such as the "Instructions for Paintings" first shown in 1961 and 1962 and the performance "Cut Piece" from 1964, in which the audience was invited to cut the clothes from the artist's body with sharp scissors while she sat on the stage.

A number of large-scale installations and recent works are also on display and Ono has also developed a new work -- the installation and performance "Moving Mountains" -- specifically for the Frankfurt exhibition.

Curator Ingrid Pfeiffer said Ono's work "often tends toward the immaterial, the substance of which consists to a lesser extent of objects and installations but to a significant degree of ideas and texts. It is not easily presented."

Ono, wearing her trademark sunglasses, told a news conference that Lennon "used to say to me: 'bring me some truth'."

"We artists have the dignity to tell the truth to the people, unlike politicians," she said.

"But we only know half the truth. The other half is invisible. You have to imagine it, you are the creator, you have to participate. You change the world by being yourself."

The exhibition runs in Frankfurt until May 12 after which it will tour to Denmark and Austria and then move to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in Spain.