Monday, November 28, 2022

Yoko Ono | A Hole To See The Sky Through (MoMA)





Yoko Ono
A Hole To See The Sky Through
New York City, USA: Museum of Modern Art, 2015
18 x 12.5 cm.
Edition size unknown


Produced to accompany the MoMA retrospective Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, this over-sized version of the postcard credits the original work as 1971. 

MoMA owns the original text work Painting to See The Sky, from 1961, and the Sky Machine from 1961/1966 (below). Created for the exhibition and now in the permanent collection, the 2015 work To See The Sky, is a ladder leading viewers to a better vantage of the sky.  


"I was getting into sky a lot – I mean, this was from the time that I was a teenager, even before I was a teenager. I got into it in the place that we moved during the war.

In those days, I just looked at the sky, and it was so beautiful. And there was not many beautiful things in my life except the sky. And the sky was always changing, bright, beautiful. And so I really fell in love with the sky at the time."
- Yoko Ono











Sunday, November 27, 2022

Yoko Ono | Yes Box







Yoko Ono
Yes Box
Lund, Sweden: Bakhall Printers & Publishers, 2004
32 pp., 13 x 15 cm., boxed
Edition size unknown

A boxed retrospective exhibition catalogue for the YES YOKO ONO show at the Japan Society in New York from October 2000 to January 2001. The contents include a thirty-two page booklet, an interview CD, a CD with two songs from the then-current Blueprint for a Sunrise LP and the postcard A Hole To See The Sky Through, which dates the work to 1964. 

The interview was conducted by Orjan Gerhardsson in Ono's Dakota apartment in New York on February 28, 2003. It runs for 18 minutes and 13 seconds. The song CD is  7 minutes 30 seconds and includes the track “It’s Time For Action” and “I’m Not Getting Enough”.



Saturday, November 26, 2022

Yoko Ono | It's Alright (I See Rainbows)









Yoko Ono
It's Alright (I See Rainbows)
New York City, USA: Rykodisc, 1997
12 x 12 cm.
Edition size unknown


In 1992, Rykodisc released Onobox, a 6-disc collection of Yoko Ono's work from 1968 to 1985, as well as an accompanying "greatest hits" single-disc collection called Walking on Thin Ice. A deluxe signed version of Onobox was accompanied by a glass Key To Open The Universe

Five years later the label released Ono's entire back catalogue, most of it on CD for the first time. 

Originally released in 1982, It's Alright (I See Rainbows) is the artist's sixth solo album, and her second following the death of her husband John Lennon. The reissue was accompanied by a CD tray sized die-cut postcard called A Hole To See The Rainbow Through.


"The songs from It’s Alright were an attempt to do new sounds. I used shotguns for the backbeat. I brought Sean’s toy raygun to the studio to use it as a rhythm track. I was expecting the usual sneer I had gotten from the musicians and engineers whenever I had tried to do anything that was out of the ordinary. Surprisingly, no one was upset this time. It was ’82 and it seemed as though I was finally in sync with the world."
- Yoko Ono




Yoko Ono: Arias and Objects





[Yoko Ono]
Yoko Ono: Arias and Objects
Salt Lake City, USA: Peregrine Smith Books, 1991
140 pp., 25.5 x 21.5 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown


Released on November 1st, 1991, Arias and Objects was the first monograph I owned on Ono's work, and might've been the first published. Previously I had read a hack biography that I found in my public library, by Jerry Hopkins (who had also written books on Elvis and Hendrix and perhaps the most ubiquitous book in my high school: No One Here Gets Out Alive, about Jim Morrison). 

Edited by Barbara Haskell and John G. Hanhardt, Arias and Objects examines Ono's objects, songs, films, performance works, and activism. Chapter headings include "Music of the Mind", "Sky and Clouds", "Paintings to Complete in the Mind", "Flying", "Feminism: Violence and Liberation" and "Mourning". It includes examples from Fluxus, pre-Fluxus, all the way up to Ono's bronze works of the late eighties and early nineties.

The front flap of the self-wraps includes a hole to see the sky through. 





Friday, November 25, 2022

Yoko Ono | A Hole to See the Sky (Fly)









Yoko Ono 
A Hole to See The Sky (from Fly)
London, UK: Apple Records, 1971
9.5 x 14.5 cm.
Edition size unknown


The second iteration of the A Hole to See The Sky card (that I'm aware of - if you know of others, please get in touch) served double-duty as a postcard in Ono's second LP Fly, and also functioned as an order-form for her artist book Grapefruit

Ono had self-published Grapefruit in Tokyo, using the imprint name Wunternaum Press, in 1964, in an edition of 500 copies. Simon & Schuster published an expanded edition in 1970. This postcard offers the book for $1.95. 

It came as part of the gatefold LP design for Fly, one of Ono's most celebrated solo records. The disc features the title track (the soundtrack of her film of the same name, see below, bottom) as well as the classic Ono songs Don't Worry Kyoko (about her kidnapped daughter) and Mindtrain (pinched years later by Stereolab, for their best song). 

The cover was designed by Fluxus impresario George Maciunas (his distinctive typefaces are the give-away) and also feature works by Fluxus artist Joe Jones.  



"I was always fascinated by the idea of making special instruments for special emotions – instruments that lead us to emotions arrived by their own motions rather than by our control. With those instruments, I wanted to explore emotions and vibrations which have not been explored as yet in music.

I thought of building a house on the hill which makes different sounds on a windy day by the wind that goes through different windows, doors and holes. 

Then I’ve met Joe Jones who’s been making such instruments for 10 years almost unnoticed. Joe built me 8 new instruments specially for this album which can play by themselves with minimum manipulation. (Turning switches only.)"
- Yoko Ono












Yoko Ono | A Hole To See The Sky Through














Yoko Ono
A Hole To See The Sky Through
Heidelberg, Germany: Edition Staeck,  1971
10 x 15 cm
Edition size unknown


While this card (the earliest iteration of the work in multiple format, that I'm aware of) dates the piece to 1971, elsewhere the work is credited to 1964 and even 1962. I'm not going to attempt a scholarly and comprehensive catalogue raisonné of the postcards, but over the next few entries I'll post other examples of the cards, as well as covers, tributes and parodies from other artists. 

The concept can be traced back to the 1961 score based work Painting to See The Skies, which asks the reader to 

Drill two holes into a canvas
Hang it where you can see the sky

(Change the place of hanging. 
Try both the front and the rear windows,
to see if the sky is different).


A Painting to See the Sky III proposes

See the sky between a woman's thighs.
See the sky between your own thighs. 
See the sky through your belongings by making holes in them. 
ie. pants, jacket, shirt, stockings, etc. 


The sky features prominently in Ono's work, something she shared with fellow Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks, whose painting she used for the cover of Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto (see below). Other examples include Key to Open the Skies, Sky Event for John Lennon, and the song "Sky People", from the 1985 LP Starpeace.

Sky Machine from 1965, is a coin-operated dispenser that produces handwritten cards with the word "Sky" printed on them. Ono said "I would like to see the sky machine on every corner of the street instead to the coke machine. We need more skies that coke."

Clouds, too, are a frequent motif in the artist's work. "Cloud Piece" from the artist book Grapefruit, invites the reader to

Imagine the clouds dripping. 
Dig a hole in your garden to put them in. 


The word 'imagine' and some of the other concepts in the book inspired John Lennon's signature song of the same name, and the above text features on the verso of Lennon's 1971 LP of the same name (designed by Ono's Fluxus friend George Maciunas). The text was later materialized into the object A Shovel to Dig a Hole for the Clouds to Drop In

Together Ono and Lennon made the little-seen film Apothesis, which features the artists and camera in a rising hot air balloon. As the camera ascends into the sky, the frame goes white for several minutes, testing the patience of the viewer. Those who remain are rewarded when the camera rises above the clouds and reveals the sun and a beautiful cloudscape. 

I'm wary of simplistic origin stories (Joseph Beuys and his downed plane leading to the use of fat and felt in his work, for example) but Ono recounts a time from her early childhood during World War 2 where she was hiding in a barn with her brother, homeless and hungry, after her family fled the city due to US bomber planes. She describes them laying on the floor of the barn looking up at the sky through a crack in the ceiling, discussing imaginary menus of food they wished they could eat, to stave off the hunger. 

This is likely an inspiration for the postcard work, and many other ideas and themes that run through her practice. It's a simple poetic conceptual proposal that facilitates looking at the world in a slightly different manner. 

Above is the original 1971 version, published by artist Klaus Staeck. Edition Staeck has published numerous postcards by artists, including Beuys, Hanne Darboven, Robert Filliou, Sigmar Polke, Ben Vautier, and Dieter Roth, who also responded to Ono's card (see future post).






Thursday, November 24, 2022

Bernadette Mayer | Memory







Bernadette Mayer
Memory
New York City, USA: Siglio Press, 2020
336 pp., 10 x 7.25"., hardcover
Edition size uknown


Originally published in 1975, Memory was long out of print and selling for between two and five hundred dollars on the secondary market, before the Siglio Press edition in 2020. This version features 1100 colour illustrations, while the original was strictly text.

The title was featured on best of 2020 lists at the New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, Cultured, Elephant and Ursula. 

Memory is available from the publisher, here, for $45 US. Also available is a signed and numbered deluxe version, in an edition of 31 copies. These copies are accompanied by a unique 6x 9 archival print housed in a vellum envelope inside the book. A second edition will be released next year. 

Mayer died two days ago, on November 22nd, 2022. She was 77 years old. 


"I was twenty-six years old when I started Memory. I look like such a kid in the photos . . . I can see myself growing up through the course of the month. I got the idea from Godard, who said that image and sound make a film. Then again, he also said all you needed to make a film was a girl and a gun.

July 1971 was a random point in time. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and that was the idea. I ended up being on the road a lot, going between city and country. Ed Bowes, my boyfriend at the time, had been hired by the Berkshire Theatre Festival to make films. I was taking a roll of film a day and developing it at night. I was also keeping a journal, recording my thoughts and feelings and transcribing actions as they were happening. It was exhausting. By the end, I had a total breakdown. Later on, I projected the slides I had taken and wrote a second text. I wanted to see what I had left out. The combination of these two texts—a text of sound and a text of image—is the audio component of Memory. I was presented with the choice of including everything or leaving a lot out. I chose to include everything, just to see what would happen.

[...]

I first met Holly Solomon at a party that winter. She invited me to have the first show at her new space at 98 Greene Street, which was in an old manufacturing building in Soho, before the neighborhood had any galleries. Gordon Matta-Clark, who was running FOOD at that time, who I remember making oxtail stew, helped install the exhibition. A.D. Coleman from the Village Voice reviewed the show, but beyond that it received little attention. It’s taken forty years for it to regain a new life.

Memory was an attempt to find out if people would get into that funny space where the words are floating around the room and so are the pictures. I still am hoping."
- Bernadette Mayer