The celebrated conceptual artist talks to Time Out Sydney about her retrospective show at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Famously decribed by John Lennon as "the world's most famous unknown artist", Yoko Ono's five-decade career will fina
lly be unpacked by Sydneysiders, thanks to the MCA's behemoth retrospective show: War is Over! (If you want it). She answered Time Out's questions ahead of the opening.
Has seeing so much of your key work collected in this retrospective exhibition given you new perspective on your body of work?
I have had many retrospective exhibition of mine in museums from the nineties, but this exhibition in Sydney is giving me a new perspective of my work and filling me with many ideas for the future.
There is a strong motif of the sky running through many of the works in War is Over! (If you want it). What does this represent for you?
The sky is always there for me, while my life has been going through many, many changes. When I look up the sky, it gives me a nice feeling like looking at an old friend.
What do you hope audiences will take from the show, particularly in terms of the interactive works?
Each person will have her/his private experience. That's why audience participation adds incredible power to the work.
With a work like ‘Cut Piece’, which you’ve performed multiple times, has the way audiences reacted to it changed over time?
It depends on the location and the time it has been shown. In Italy, it was received with love. In New York it was received with quiet violence.
With works like 'Vertical Memory' there is obviously a very explicit autobiographical element. How much of your work is autobiographical?
I do use my experience as the roots of my work.
As your work is often so conceptual, each rendering of it is a little different. Has being in Sydney for this show affected the works in a particular way?
We should ask that question together after the show, not while it is still in the stage of being imagined!
It is said that you keep every wish attached to the wish trees around the world. What do you do with them?
‘Wish Tree’ is one of my works. When people play this work, anywhere in the world, the wishes are carefully kept and sent to IMAGINE PEACE TOWER in Reykjavik, Iceland. We now have more than one million wishes and is creating very powerful wish together.
What is the relation of idea and object in your work?
When I create any work, I am not thinking of its relation to other works of mine. But I know that there is a strong wish in each one of them that adds up to be my wish for Peace and Love for us and our planet.
You are involved in so many different projects – musically, artistically, and socially. Do these practices relate to each other, or do you see them as separate?
I am only thinking of create a good work, when I create one. In retrospect, I see that there is some connection to my work in other fields. Well, the connection vaguely can be called ME!
War Is Over! (If You Want It): Yoko Ono, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney, Nov 15 2013 - Feb 23 2014