We Interviewed Yoko Ono on Her 80th Birthday
Yoko Ono is probably one of the most active people her age. She just presented her 2013 Courage Awards for the Arts to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, has stood behind Pussy Riot, and is campaigning with Jeff Koons and Lady Gaga for Artists Against Fracking.
Yoko is probably best known as one of the pioneers of conceptual art and instruction-based art. Cut Piece remains her most popular piece (where she sat on a stage and people cut her dress off, one by one). There's also a lot of interactive art, like the Painting to Be Stepped On (where you can literally walk on the art) and the Danger Box with a hole for your hand and a warning sign ("The management will not guarantee that a hand when put in this hole will come out in the same condition as prior to entry”).
For the past few days, I’ve been on the Yoko Ono press carousel. I took the bus from Berlin to Frankfurt. The entire posse of Yoko Ono extends far beyond the hippies who showed up at the press conference in Beatles t-shirts or long tie dye skirts. The deepest of the most hardcore art scenesters were there, with everyone in black and black-rimmed glasses, quietly drinking coffee and smoking bitchsticks with their long, skinny fingers. Whereas Yoko may be an underground artist who married John Lennon to some, she is hailed like a cult figure to those who know the magazine Artforum. This is as elite as the art world gets.
Last Wednesday night, Yoko sat in the front row of a monastery as the Young German Philharmonic performed "Sky Piece to Jesus Christ," an experimental musical piece Yoko dedicated to John Cage. The classical musicians were wrapped in gauze until they couldn’t play their instruments. (They were escorted offstage by Yoko herself, as they couldn’t find the backstage with bandages around their heads).
In the midst of all this, I chatted with Yoko about art, politics and her biggest birthday wish.
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