Yoko Ono: Growing Freedom at Contemporary Calgary

The instructions of Yoko Ono
The art of John and Yoko
September 17, 2020 – January 31, 2021

Yoko Ono (b. 1933) is a visionary, pioneering artist with a career that now spans over sixty years. During the 1950s in Tokyo, she introduced original questions concerning the concept of art and the art object, breaking down the traditional boundaries between branches of art. She has been associated with Conceptual art, performance, Fluxus, and happenings of the 1960s, and is one of very few women to have participated in these movements. Through her works of instructions and performances, as well as her activism, she has created a new kind of relationship with spectators in general and fellow artists, including her late husband John Lennon, inviting them to play an active part in the creative process. She also brings together two cultures – Eastern and Western – which extend and strengthen each other in continuous innovation.

This major exhibition in two parts will underscore the cornerstones of action, participation, and imagination in the work of Yoko Ono. The instructions of Yoko Ono, will focus on her ‘instruction’ works that emphasize the role of the visitor in their completion. Among works to be presented are text-based instructions, as well as participatory works including MEND PIECE (1966), HORIZONTAL MEMORY (1997), and ARISING (2013). The second part of the exhibition, The art of John and Yoko, will present an arc of collaborative art projects for peace undertaken by Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Among these is the ACORN PEACE, the WAR IS OVER! Peace Campaign, and the Montreal BED-IN FOR PEACE, which marked its fifty-year anniversary on May 26, 2019. Through an approach that spotlights storytelling, this part of the exhibition features a variety of stories from people who participated in the BED-IN FOR PEACE, told in their own voices and words. These often moving accounts testify to the impact of what became a legendary and historic event, one that remains a key reference for the indivisibility of art and life, as well as the importance of nonviolent action to inspire political and social change.

Ultimately, this exhibition wishes to impart Yoko Ono’s massive impact on contemporary art practices, on art reception, and on activism through art. The urgency and spirit of her work remain pertinent and perhaps more important than ever.

This exhibition was organized by the Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal, curated by Gunnar B. Kvaran & Cheryl Sim and will tour to Contemporary Calgary, Vancouver Art Gallery and Kunsthalle Amsterdam.

More info and exhibition details on the Contemporary Calgary website.