In 2002, the AGO held the first ever large-scale multimedia retrospective of Yoko Ono’s work to be mounted in North America, Y E S YOKO ONO. Once again, Torontonians are clamouring to see this artist’s work. On view at the Gardiner Museum now until June 3, YOKO ONO: THE RIVERBED is a series of three installations, each with a specific purpose.
Since the 1950s, audience participation has been a key aspect of Ono’s practice, and it is at the heart of this exhibition. Into the serene whiteness of the Gardiner’s third floor, you’re greeted with a hum of activity as visitors use the provided hammers, nails, assorted stones and meditation pillows to fulfill instructions set out by Ono in three different sections.
Stone Piece features a curving stream of rounded rocks, each honed and shaped by water over time. Ono inscribed some of the stones with words such as dream, wish, and remember. Visitors are told to pick up a stone and hold it, concentrate on the word, and let go of their anger or fear before placing it back on the pile.
The sounds of hammers echo from under a canopy of string that is Line Piece. Using white-handled hammers and black nails, visitors connect string to points on the walls, criss-crossing the room, leaving in their wake a net of varying heights and depth. Below the surface of all this string, at tiny tables, visitors are encouraged by Ono to use a pencil and paper to “draw a line to take me to the farthest place in our planet.”
In Mend Piece, a work first created by Ono in 1966, you enter a work room where fragments of broken ceramic cups and saucers are placed on tables for visitors to reassemble using glue, string and tape, before displaying them on shelves. This is about more than fixing broken pottery. In Ono’s words: “As you mend the cup, mending that is needed elsewhere in the Universe gets done as well. Be aware of it as you mend.” While uniting your ceramic pieces, visitors are encouraged to enjoy a free espresso together, forming another kind of union.
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