Review: Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind, Tate Modern, London by James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It’s staggering the amount of hate Yoko Ono gets. Wrongfully blamed for breaking up The Beatles, after getting with John Lennon, she and her art has been mocked, judged and dismissed. In the biggest UK show to date, The Tate sets the record straight.

As we arrive before entering the space, we can leave notes on wish trees, one of many Japanese inspired ideas in her art. A video of her eye permeating the threshold to entry, we hear her on the phone and read tiny messages from personally. There is a vivid video of a match being struck, her work on fire may hark back to her escape from fire bombs of the Tokyo of her childhood. An escape to the countryside and the sky bring an influence is also essential.

We as the audience can take part in her work: doss around in a black bag, hammer a nail to a block of wood, walk over the canvas itself. The taking part is fun, though I think the chance for more than one person at a time would be encouraged. Her time in Japan, London and New York sees her ideas form and thrive, there is plenty of poetry and jokes. Collabs with John Cage and his partner David Tudor are also excellent. Getting a chance to hear this was a highlight. The video of bottoms is also telling and nicely filmed.

You can sit and watch the infamous Sit in Bed Piece with Lennon, creating your own art as you do. Listen to her music back catalogue, take a piece of jigsaw from a helmet for peace. Yoko asks us to create the art in our own minds, as we are given many prompts to do so. The idea of peace has been so important to her for years and now her messages are more important than ever. We got to draw in a room with a refuge boat. I showed off my Giotto circle. Children felt like they could muck in, which was lovely. A girl amused me saying she was scared when I was engulfed by the bag. It’s almost a burqa, the imagery is very similar.

I’m down to come back and muck about more, though I doubt the naysayers will be moved.

Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind runs at the Tate Modern till 1st September 2024

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