Working as an artist, film-maker, poet, musician, writer, performance artist and peace activist for over five decades, this month Yoko Ono is exhibiting existing installations, films and performances, as well as archive material relating to several key early works at the Serpentine Gallery.
TO THE LIGHT notably includes her pioneering and powerful performance artwork, Cut Piece (1964), in which a young Ono sits passively on stage as audience members cut fragments of her clothing. The short slow-motion film Fly (1970), carefully traces the eponymous insect moving across the contours of a naked body. And Amaze (1971/2012) explores a journey into the self as a Perspex labyrinth leads visitors around to a hollow black box filled with water and mirrored base, also transforming the viewer from the observer to the observed.
The strongest theme to emerge from her exhibition is, however, an underlying strive for peace – a message that Ono has been endeavoring to spread since the days of her and John Lennon’s two week long Bed-Ins, during the Vietnam War in 1969. Most engaging – amongst her installation of Sky Ladders and Wish Trees – is the worldwide participatory project #smilesfilm. First conceived by Ono in 1967 as a way of connecting people across the world, the updated 21st century project invites people to upload and send images of their smiles by hash-tagging #smilesfilm. “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,” explains Ono, “Think peace, act peace, spread peace, and imagine peace.”
While her utopian concept of the future may be a romantic one, her vision of the power of mass participation is truly inspiring and what better thing to encourage people to do than smile. On a cold, wet and miserable day in London we invited our AnOther contributors to submit photographs of their favourite smiles and tell us a little bit about when the image was taken – which are all displayed in our gallery below.
Text by Lucia Davies