Monday, November 2, 2009

Follow the Instructions

Tonight I went to a dinner for Cooper Union honoring architectural giants such as Thom Mayne and Cesar Pelli. Amongst others being celebrated was Yoko Ono. I was put on the guest list just this morning. When I saw Yoko as an honoree I became a bit giddy. I could care less about celebrities and my first memories of the Beatles was getting a dozen cavities filled while Strawberry Fields Forever piped through the headphones at the dentist. But all of a sudden I felt like I wanted to know more (much more) about this artist's work and her as only an artist and see her in the flesh. I am reading a biography on Paul Gauguin now and that separation of life and death made me more sensitive to seeing someone like Yoko alive and well. I went to The Strand at lunch and bought her book Instruction Paintings in hopes of having her sign it. It is a beautiful hard cover small (7" x 7") square book (published by Weatherhill, Inc., New York 1995) in Japanese and English...63 pages with only five black and white photographs. It is well designed and has a handsome slip case. I especially like the cover because of the lone image of Yoko's eye, which is often shielded in dark sunglasses in her pop icon persona. I speak Czech so there is an extra meaning...the word, oko means eye and ono, in Czech, is used as a form of it...i.e. to je ono ('that's the one' or, as Michael Jackson once sang 'this is it!'). Instruction Paintings is, however, the kind of book you typically would not buy because there are "not enough pictures" for an art book...but for Yoko, that's what I wanted...her in the most conceptual state. Since it's a full moon and I just turned to this page, here is one sheet (opposite the Japanese):


the night of the full moon, place a canvas
in the garden from 1:00 AM til dawn.
When the canvas is dyed thoroughly in rose with
the morning light, dismember or fold it and bury.

The ways of burial:
1) Bury it in the garden and place a marker with a number on it.
2) Sell it to the rag man.
3) Throw it in the garbage.


Yoko was smoothly slipped into the event and although she brushed by and smiled politely at me she was soon a sea of people away and I dared not intrude upon her privacy. Very early on, however, she got up to go to the bathroom and popped back out into my side of the dining area. She looked a bit lost and no one else noticed her. I got up and asked her to sign the book and then I took her arm and walked her across the room and brought her to her seat. She turned, looked up and thanked me. She looked fantastic and young. I felt guilty for asking for her autograph but she was graceful and took her time. She asked me my name and asked me for a pen then signed 'To Andrew, Love Yoko '09.'

Sometimes we build a world of reasons and questions and act out in so many bizarre ways to get closer to something or someone but when there is an honest, mutual moment between two people there is almost an emotional sigh of relief in that simple unpretentious wink of understanding. I do not need to see her again or ask her questions about her work. Her written words are now narrated by her soft voice and I have felt her gentle touch in a helping moment. It's a relationship that works backwards.