There is no need to introduce Yoko Ono, most people will know her as the wife of the late John Lennon, her art however is somehow less familiar. Being sometimes in two minds with regards to conceptual art, I originally approached War Is Over! (If You Want It), a five-decade-spanning survey of Ono’s work at the MCA, cautiously. I should not have worried, the exhibition turned out to be a complete success.
I wasn’t aware of the participatory nature of Yoko Ono’s work before visiting War Is Over! (If You Want It) and was therefore pleasantly surprised by Play It By Trust, one of the many participatory works featured in the exhibition. This work invites visitors to play a game of chess, the pieces however differ from the standard black and white sets, in this game both players play with white pieces. The idea behind the work is to eliminate the principles of competition and opposition from the game, indeed it is only possible to play for as long as each player can remember which pieces are his or hers.
Another work relying on audience participation is My Mommy Is Beautiful, a wall on which visitors can stick a note addressed to their mother. The many notes vary in tone and range, from the comic to the sad, visitors can read declarations of love, expressions of regret and many other emotions. If it somehow sounds naïve when written down, the actual work is extremely touching.
Yoko Ono also deals with the violence inflicted upon women and their body in Touch Me III, this work consists of silicone body parts in wooden casings, after wetting their fingers viewers are asked to touch the various ‘body’ parts. This work serves as a reminder of the plight and suffering of women all around the world.
I won’t detail every work in the exhibition so as to leave some things for you to discover when you attend it. Suffice to say that in a world where conceptual art sometimes basks in its own vacuous self-importance, Yoko Ono’s work, its participatory nature and her message of peace come as a breath of fresh air and will have you reflecting on important issues in the most accessible and unpretentious way.
There is only a little bit more than a month left to catch War Is Over! (If You Want It) so put on your shoes and run to the MCA as soon as you can!