At the end of August I went along to the Serpentine Gallery to see Yoko Ono’s first UK exhibition in over a decade, To The Light. I don’t mind admitting that I really only went to see the exhibition because Yoko Ono is Japanese, and I felt I ought to make an effort to see some of her work, having never explored it before.
Yoko Ono’s work is very conceptual and I don’t think I really get it. I often wonder if she’s one of these people who is more famous than her work – famous for being married John Lennon, rather than for being an artist in her own right. But that’s not to say her work isn’t interesting or at least intriguing.
The gallery felt very sparse, with random objects hung or placed around the white space. I felt like I ought to be quite while looking at them. To be honest, To The Light did nothing for me, but I’m still glad I gave it a go.
However, alongside the main exhibition was something that did interest me – a large-scale participatory project called #smilesfilm, which aims to connect people across the world and create a global anthology of smiling portraits. Ono believes the collection of smiles will transmit positive energy across the world, which will turn into peace and change the atmosphere across the planet. There were two specially designed booths at the gallery in which visitors could have their photos taken and submit them to be part of #smilesfilm. The smiles will be presented globally in digital form on a dedicated website, smilesfilm.com, on a specially-designed Yoko Ono micro-site produced in conjunction with the exhibition, and apps for iPhone and iPad. Although the exhibition has finished, it’s not too late to submit your smile. Just download the app, or take a photo and Tweet it with the hashtag #smilesfilm.
The other part of the exhibition I liked was ‘Wish Tree for London’. In a very Japanese style which reminded me of ’ema’ (wish boards at shrines in Japan), visitors to the gallery could write their wishes on paper tags and attach them to trees outside the gallery.
The exhibition has now closed, but if you’re interested in learning more about Yoko Ono’s work you could start with this clip from the BBC’s Culture Show, in which she talks about her exhibition and her #smilesproject:
The more I read about Yoko Ono, the more I realise what a fascinating life she’s had, and I think I’d like to learn more. Her art may not do much for me, but her life interests me greatly. And, as a slight aside, can you believe this woman is going to turn 80 next year?? For more about Yoko Ono, visit imaginepeace.com.