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YOKO ONO

Yoko Ono at Transatlantyk 2013

One of the most daring artists of our time, Yoko Ono is having an incredibly busy year in 2013, including her 80th birthday celebration. Her retrospective HALF-A-WIND SHOW  is touring to major museums across Germany, Denmark, Austria and Spain. Her most recent dance single, "Hold Me", reached #1 on the Billboard (US) dance charts.  Numerous projects are slated for 2013 including a new PLASTIC ONO BAND album, the reissue of her influential record albums from 1968-1985, a career-spanning art book, Infinite Universe At Dawn, and the curation of the 2013 Meltdown Festival in London.

Yoko Ono, the legendary avant-garde artist, musician and activist, will be the star of this year’s TRANSATLANTYK - Poznan International Film and Music Festival! Thurston Moore, the celebrated American guitarist and vocalist of Sonic Youth, will accompany Ono during the performance. This will be Ono and Moore’s first Polish concert to date!

When Sonic Youth arose in the early 80’s, Yoko Ono had already been a counterculture legend. In 2012, the musicians of the most important American alternative band joined forces "with the world’s most famous unknown artist." However, this project is not about putting together a "dream team" composed of stars; it is rather about what Yoko Ono’s comprehensive work has always been animated by - an endless experiment in which art becomes life.

Yoko Ono will also receive the Transatlantyk Glocal Hero Award 2013 - in honor of her activism for world peace and her dedication to environmental and social issues. In 2012, the recipients of the Glocal Hero Award were Elżbieta and Krzysztof Penderecki.

Tickets for Yoko Ono’s concert on August 7th, 2013 are available for purchase here: eBilet.

 

 

For the past half-century, many things have been said about Yoko Ono - good and bad, real and fictitious, interesting and confusing. The most famous description is the one by John Lennon, who called her "the world’s most famous unknown artist." Lennon was right about a lot of things, but he did not say it all, because it is difficult to say "everything" about a person who has been fighting all her life to avoid being pigeonholed and who actually managed to win this battle. Besides, Yoko Ono is more than just a versatile artist, she is a person whose work in an unusual way combines various threads of modern culture. Avant-garde gets entangled here with rock'n' roll, fame with Underground, East with West, political activism with humor, feminism with art, physicality with spirituality. Yoko Ono is one of those artists who are ready to take advantage of all available means - making a film, a performance, organizing a political protest, doing an exhibition, making a record, playing a concert. However, whatever she does, she is always inspired by one idea - crossing the line between art and life. Yoko Ono crosses this line not just to create better art, but in hope to change the world. This hope was the fuel driving the counterculture, of which Yoko Ono has become an icon. The artist herself has never given up this hope.

Yoko Ono's life has been as an epic tale, full of changing scenery and unexpected twists and turns of action, some of which were tragic. She grew up on the top of Japanese society; her mother came from a family of powerful bankers; her father was an aristocrat. Yoko Ono went to school with the successor to the imperial throne, the young Akihito. She was a classically trained vocalist, and the first woman admitted to study philosophy at Gakushuin University. She saw with her own eyes the destruction of Tokyo burned by American bombers. She has known poverty and hunger during the post-war years. She emigrated to the United States, and in New York, she ventured deep into the art underworld, where certain concepts were born at the end of the 50’s and the 60’s, concepts which both the counterculture and the new art would soon grow from. John Cage - the composer, who played silence and who changed experimental music irreversibly was her mentor. A circle of artists of Fluxus became her environment. It was a loose collective of artists who had been composing the music written for flying butterflies and who dismantled traditional work of art, replacing it with live action, their own bodies and intangible ideas. The most important artistic trends of the late twentieth century, such as conceptual art, action art and radical performance grew from the actions of the Fluxus, and was playing out on the border of an avant-garde experiment, abstract humor, provocation and crazy cabaret. Yoko Ono and Fluxus composer LaMonte Young organized avant-garde concerts and experimental exhibitions in her Lower Manhattan loft in the early 1960s. Crowds were not attending these independent events, but they were frequented by the old pope of the anti-art Marcel Duchamp, and the pope of the new art - Andy Warhol. At that time, Yoko Ono was one of the very few influential females in the male world of the avant-garde - in the 60‘s counterculture was nearly as sexist as the bourgeois reality. In the 70’s many feminists expressed their ideas by reaching for body art and for radical performance. A decade earlier, Yoko Ono was a pioneer of this discipline. In the campaign "Cut Piece" she reversed the roles between the artist who performs and the audience, passively watching the show. This time, the performer sat motionless on stage, and the audience was supposed to act. Viewers were given scissors; they were approaching the artist and slashing her clothing, until she was completely naked. The campaign was repeated several times in various places in the world. Each time the response was different, from the shameful embarrassment of the viewers, to the barely suppressed aggression towards the artist who put herself out there at the mercy of the audience. Yoko Ono is not one of these artists whose mission is to entertain, delight or amaze audiences, because in her art, there is no such thing as a spectator. There is no audience, everyone participates; the recipient is a partner, is involved and co-creates this artistic situation. This is how it was happening during her actions, which later became the classics of performance. Furthermore, today Yoko Ono has exhibitions in major art institutions in the world. In 2009, at the Venice Biennale, she received the Golden Lion for lifetime achievements, but she does not allow herself to be locked in a museum. Her works are still "happening", they are born of the dialogue with the receivers, just like with the famous "Wish Tree" - a living tree which is being filled by the audience. The public is invited to hang cards with written wishes on the branches, for as long as it takes for the wishes to outnumber the leaves.

Avant-garde blazes trails of a new culture, but its pioneers remain unknown to the wider public. Fluxus artists were known by a handful of regulars frequenting underground shows. When in the late 60’s Yoko Ono became involved with John Lennon, suddenly the whole world got to know her. Andy Warhol made fame the matter of his art. Yoko Ono used her popularity as a tool, and turned her and Lennon’s love into a performance. This love was a relationship between two people, but it also became something more - a message against war and violence.

At the turn of the 60’s and the 70‘s Ono and Lennon, one of the most famous couples on the planet, became the icons of the hippie counterculture, in which the Vietnam War, happening at that time, was a symbol of all the unjust wars in the world. Lennon and Ono said "no" to violence, just as millions of people of their generation did, but they could be sure that their voice, amplified by fame, was heard everywhere. In various cities around the world, as a part of an event, they published billboards saying, "War is over. If you want it. Happy Christmas from John and Yoko." This message only seems to be hippie-idealistic, while in fact, it hits home, the very heart of it. If we really wanted the war would end. Pacifistic illusions of that era had been long since vanished, but Yoko Ono has not lost hope that people will eventually want to end the war. Working towards the peace remains the main message throughout her art.

Perhaps, in someone else's mouth this message would sound naive, but it gains credibility when it is said by someone like Yoko Ono. The artist is a living link between the present day and the era of the counterculture revolution of the '60s, in which the slogan "Peace & Love" really shook the foundations of the existing order.

The relationship with Lennon was a musical marriage. Yoko Ono has always been working with music. At the turn of the 50’s and the 60’s she entered the world of contemporary art through music. Besides, for this artist the boundaries between artistic disciplines were illusionary. Yoko Ono has always managed to somehow evade those illusions. In her musical world, conceptual works of John Cage coexist with the borderlands of rock'n'roll. There is a place for psychedelia and noise, for the original hymns filled with rich content, and for primal expression of shouting without words, for improvisation and for sounds taken from Japanese opera. However, most of all, there is plenty of room for cooperation, because like all of Yoko Ono's work, her music is created in close relationship with people. The artist has worked with such diverse musicians as La Monte Young, Eric Clapton Elvis Costello, Pet Shop Boys, Basement Jaxx, and the Flaming Lips. In 2010 she sang a duet with Antony Hegarty. A year later, she invited Lady Gaga to perform with her. One of her latest projects is a cooperation with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore - founders of the cult formation Sonic Youth. In this case, the situation is absolutely epic: three living legends of alternative music met in one studio for spontaneous improvisation. When Sonic Youth arose in the early 80’s, Yoko Ono was one of the main inspirations for those musicians.Thurston Moore remained faithful to their inspiration - their work is an endless experiment, ongoing for three decades, breaking through genre divisions and stylistic patterns. In this sense, working with Yoko Ono is a return to the roots, deeply ingrained in the idea of creative freedom without limits.

Stach Szablowski