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Yoko Ono’s Meltdown

7 thèmes | 22 oeuvres
For the past 20 years, London’s Southbank Centre has invited legendary musicians, including David Bowie and Patti Smith, to guest curate the Meltdown festival, and this year, it is Yoko Ono’s turn. At 80, the grande dame of the post-war avant-garde has not softened one bit, and her selection of guests reflects her lifelong interest in musical innovation as well as her enduring political engagement, with two weekends of talks on activism.
By Virginie Sélavy

Feminism

Although she has always been a staunch feminist, Yoko Ono has rarely spoken out explicitly against sexism in her art and music. Her pioneering creations have opened the way for other women in performance art, and her influence as a strong female icon can be traced in the provocative work and defiant attitude of artists and musicians such as Marina Abramović, Peaches, Kim Gordon and Siouxsie. Her Meltdown festival is notable for having an approximately equal number of male and female guests.

Yoko Ono’s Meltdown

After performing at Patti Smith’s Meltdown in 2005, Yoko Ono has picked a spectacular line-up for her own festival this year, including the first performance in five years of priestess of darkness Siouxsie, rock gods Iggy and the Stooges (supported by the UK’s hottest new band, intense monochrome all-girl outfit Savages), ex-Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore and legendary New York icon Patti Smith. The festival will open with Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band and close with a performance of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s "Double Fantasy".

The Artist Is Present

Matthew Akers’s documentary follows the Serbian-born performance artist as she prepares for a major retrospective at New York’s MOMA. For the last 40 years, Abramović has been fearlessly using her body to explore both her own limits and the nature of art. In the notoriously dangerous Rhythm 0, audience members could do what they wanted to her body using instruments such as saws, nails and a loaded gun. It echoed Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964), in which Ono invited audience members to cut out a piece of her clothing on stage.

Join Hands

Combining pop, punk and avant-garde experimentation, Siouxsie and the Banshees were one of the most inventive and influential bands of the English post-punk scene. Their second album, "Join Hands", released in 1979, features Siouxsie’s distinctive jagged vocals and the band’s trademark brooding guitars and atmosphere of unease. Now held as a classic, it features the devastating blast of dark energy that is “Love in a Void”, the obsessive rhythm of “Playground Twist” and the sinister/sweet lullaby “Mother”. Siouxsie plays Yoko Ono’s Meltdown in June.

Hybrids

Born in Tokyo in 1933, Yoko Ono left Japan to join her family in the United States after the war. Positioned between two cultures from an early age, it is no wonder that Ono felt like a “spiritual hybrid”. This sentiment was reflected in the title of her 1964 book of instructions "Grapefruit", which came from the idea that a grapefruit is a hybrid of orange and lemon (in fact it is a hybrid of pummelo and sweet orange). The films and albums she made with John Lennon were hybrids of another kind.

The Art Films

Yoko Ono’s best-known film is the Fluxus short "Four" (1967), originally shot in New York and remade in London under the title "Bottoms". The initial plan was to film the bottoms of 365 artistic personalities in close-up. According to Ono, "Bottoms" is an engaged film for peace, “an aimless petition signed by people with their anuses”. Ono collaborated with Lennon on various films, including "Two Virgins" (1968) and the more ambitious "Rape" (1968), in which the camera aggressively pursues a young woman around the streets of London.

Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings

First published in 1964, Yoko Ono’s book of instructions for art and life was an early example of conceptual art. It consists of a series of humorous, playful, eccentric and poetic abstract instructions to create works of art in the reader’s mind, for example "Wall Piece for Orchestra": "Hit a wall with your head;" or "Hide and seek Piece": Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies." Some of the instructions were used by Ono in performance pieces and exhibitions.

John Lennon

Although Yoko Ono was blamed for breaking up one of the most successful bands of all time, there had been tensions brewing in The Beatles, as each of the four band members began to explore individual interests in solo projects at the end of the 1960s. The intensifying musical divergences became evident on the White Album, and the band would disband two years later. Following the split, Lennon became increasingly politically engaged and musically adventurous, collaborating with Ono on a number of albums and films.

The Beatles (White Album)

Most of The Beatles’ ninth album, released in 1968, was composed while John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were on a transcendental meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. Although it received mixed reviews on its release, "The Beatles" is now seen as one of the greatest albums of all time. With contributions by all four Beatles, it is a wildly eclectic collection of songs that play with a variety of musical genres, including the proto-metal “Helter Skelter” and the Yoko Ono-influenced avant-garde experiment “Revolution 9”.

  CD
Back in the USSR
Auteur: [The ]Beatles
Edition: EMI music international

The Art Films

Yoko Ono’s best-known film is the Fluxus short "Four" (1967), originally shot in New York and remade in London under the title "Bottoms". The initial plan was to film the bottoms of 365 artistic personalities in close-up. According to Ono, "Bottoms" is an engaged film for peace, “an aimless petition signed by people with their anuses”. Ono collaborated with Lennon on various films, including "Two Virgins" (1968) and the more ambitious "Rape" (1968), in which the camera aggressively pursues a young woman around the streets of London.

Some Time in New York City

Released in 1972, "Some Time in New York City" was penned and performed by both Ono and Lennon. Combining experimental rock with their most explicitly political lyrics, it deals with sexism (the controversial “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” and Ono’s “Sisters, O Sisters”), police brutality (“Attica State”), the conflict in Northern Ireland (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and the plight of the unjustly imprisoned White Panther leader John Sinclair. The album cover is a mock newspaper with, as its articles, the songs’ titles and lyrics.

Musical experiments

Although she has been much maligned by Beatles fans and the UK’s music press, Yoko Ono is now recognised as a seminal artist and musician. She was introduced to the post-war musical avant-garde in the late 1950s through her first husband, who studied under John Cage. In 1969, she married John Lennon, and it was the beginning of a fruitful personal and musical partnership. Her influence has been acknowledged by The B52’s and Sonic Youth and can be heard in many other alternative bands of the last 30 years.

Yoko Ono’s Meltdown

After performing at Patti Smith’s Meltdown in 2005, Yoko Ono has picked a spectacular line-up for her own festival this year, including the first performance in five years of priestess of darkness Siouxsie, rock gods Iggy and the Stooges (supported by the UK’s hottest new band, intense monochrome all-girl outfit Savages), ex-Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore and legendary New York icon Patti Smith. The festival will open with Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band and close with a performance of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s "Double Fantasy".

Season of Glass

Released in 1981, six months after John Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono’s solo album "Season of Glass" directly deals with the loss of her husband in songs such as “Goodbye Sadness” and “I Don’t Know Why”. They were returning from the studio where they had been working on “Walking on Thin Ice” when unhinged fan Mark David Chapman shot Lennon dead. On the album’s cover is a photo of Lennon’s bloodied glasses next to a glass of water, with Central Park in the background – the view from their apartment in The Dakota Building.

Goo

Considered the most accessible album by New York’s foremost experimental rock band, "Goo" (1990) channels Sonic Youth’s customary sensory assault into conventionally structured songs. The album includes riff-driven rocker “Dirty Boots”, “Tunic”, about tragic pop singer Karen Carpenter, and “Kool Thing”, in which bass player Kim Gordon takes on hip hop’s macho swagger. In 1999, Sonic Youth paid tribute to Yoko Ono on their experimental album SYR4: "Goodbye 20th Century". Ex-frontman Thurston Moore (solo) and Kim Gordon (as part of duo Body/Head) will be performing at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown.

Silence: Lectures and Writings

One of the key figures of the American post-war avant-garde, Cage constantly sought to push back the boundaries of music and his influence is still felt today. He developed composition methods that revolved around chance and indeterminacy, electronic sounds, the unconventional use of musical instruments and the inclusion of ambient noise. His most famous composition, "4’33”", consists of nothing more than the environmental sound of the auditorium as the musicians remain silent on stage.

New York City

Yoko Ono fell in with the New York art crowd in the late 1950s, befriending composers La Monte Young and John Cage, Fluxus founder George Maciunas, artist Nam June Paik and filmmaker Jonas Mekas. In the 1960s, she started organising artistic events in her Manhattan loft. Ono and Lennon moved back to New York in 1971, where they lived in an apartment in The Dakota Building, overlooking Central Park. It was outside The Dakota that John Lennon was shot dead by Mark David Chapman in 1980.

Season of Glass

Released in 1981, six months after John Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono’s solo album "Season of Glass" directly deals with the loss of her husband in songs such as “Goodbye Sadness” and “I Don’t Know Why”. They were returning from the studio where they had been working on “Walking on Thin Ice” when unhinged fan Mark David Chapman shot Lennon dead. On the album’s cover is a photo of Lennon’s bloodied glasses next to a glass of water, with Central Park in the background – the view from their apartment in The Dakota Building.

Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski’s first Hollywood-produced feature remains a creepy masterpiece of unease and paranoia. Mia Farrow is hauntingly fragile as Rosemary, devoted pregnant wife to John Cassavetes’s ambitious actor Guy. As she begins to worry about the safety of her unborn child following a number of strange occurrences, we are left to wonder whether she is really under threat from a Satanic cult, or simply losing her sanity. The exterior shots of the gloomy Manhattan building where Rosemary and Guy live were filmed at The Dakota Building.

Infinite Universe at Dawn

To be published in 2013 to mark Yoko Ono’s 80th birthday, "Infinite Universe at Dawn" documents her artistic career through text and archival photographs, many previously unpublished. Among the notable art works included are "Film No.1 (MATCH)"; "Live Peace in Toronto 1969"; "Hide-Mouth", accompanied by a photo showing Ono and three men with white bandanas over their mouths, looking like a cool band or a revolutionary faction; and "Cut Piece" (1964), which will be performed by Canadian electronic musician Peaches at Meltdown.

Some Time in New York City

Released in 1972, "Some Time in New York City" was penned and performed by both Ono and Lennon. Combining experimental rock with their most explicitly political lyrics, it deals with sexism (the controversial “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” and Ono’s “Sisters, O Sisters”), police brutality (“Attica State”), the conflict in Northern Ireland (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and the plight of the unjustly imprisoned White Panther leader John Sinclair. The album cover is a mock newspaper with, as its articles, the songs’ titles and lyrics.

Political activism

Publicly opposed to the Vietnam War, Ono and Lennon famously spent their honeymoon in a week-long Bed-In for Peace in 1969 and shortly after recorded “Give Peace a Chance”. That same year, their joint musical venture The Plastic Ono Band released their first album, "Live Peace in Toronto 1969". Throughout their careers they continued to campaign against war, sexism and political repression. In recent years, Ono has become an outspoken opponent of fracking, a natural gas drilling technique harmful to the environment.

33 Revolutions per Minute

In the meticulously researched "33 Revolutions per Minute", Guardian music journalist Dorian Lynskey charts the history of Western pop and politics through 33 songs, from Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” to Green Day’s “American Idiot” via John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance”. Placing the songs in their social, political and national context, including the civil rights movement, protests against the Vietnam War, union action and anti-nuclear opposition, this epic work also traces the story of countercultural and revolutionary movements of the last 100 years.

Gasland

Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Prize and the John Lennon/Yoko Ono Peace Prize 2010, Josh Fox’s documentary investigates the consequences of fracking on American communities. Using large amounts of pressurised water injected with chemicals to release natural gas from shale deposits, fracking poses risks to the environment, including contamination of ground water and air pollution, as well as human health. In August 2012, Yoko Ono and son Sean Lennon founded Artists Against Fracking after the New York governor announced that gas drilling would soon start in the state.

Some Time in New York City

Released in 1972, "Some Time in New York City" was penned and performed by both Ono and Lennon. Combining experimental rock with their most explicitly political lyrics, it deals with sexism (the controversial “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” and Ono’s “Sisters, O Sisters”), police brutality (“Attica State”), the conflict in Northern Ireland (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and the plight of the unjustly imprisoned White Panther leader John Sinclair. The album cover is a mock newspaper with, as its articles, the songs’ titles and lyrics.

Radical cinema

It was Fluxus founder George Maciunas who introduced Yoko Ono to film. One day in 1966, he invited her to use his newly acquired high-speed camera and she made "Film No.1 (MATCH)". She explored her interest in the human body through works such as "Bottoms" (1966) and "Fly" (1970). She also facilitated the creation of one of the most jaw-dropping films of the 1970s: after seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s psychedelic Western "El Topo", Ono and Lennon financed his third feature, the hallucinatory spiritual quest "The Holy Mountain" (1971).

The Art Films

Yoko Ono’s best-known film is the Fluxus short "Four" (1967), originally shot in New York and remade in London under the title "Bottoms". The initial plan was to film the bottoms of 365 artistic personalities in close-up. According to Ono, "Bottoms" is an engaged film for peace, “an aimless petition signed by people with their anuses”. Ono collaborated with Lennon on various films, including "Two Virgins" (1968) and the more ambitious "Rape" (1968), in which the camera aggressively pursues a young woman around the streets of London.

The Holy Mountain

Jodorowsky’s visionary mystical journey follows a Christ-like Thief as he seeks a holy mountain under the guidance of the Alchimist (played by the director), together with seven other people chosen among the world’s most powerful politicians and businessmen. Combining mordant political satire, Zen influences, irreverent humour, a surreal sense of the macabre and sumptuous visuals, "The Holy Mountain" remains one of Jodorowsky’s most spellbinding works. The psychedelic experimental score was composed by Jodorowsky, Archies keyboard player Ron Frangipane and free jazz musician Don Cherry.

Infinite Universe at Dawn

To be published in 2013 to mark Yoko Ono’s 80th birthday, "Infinite Universe at Dawn" documents her artistic career through text and archival photographs, many previously unpublished. Among the notable art works included are "Film No.1 (MATCH)"; "Live Peace in Toronto 1969"; "Hide-Mouth", accompanied by a photo showing Ono and three men with white bandanas over their mouths, looking like a cool band or a revolutionary faction; and "Cut Piece" (1964), which will be performed by Canadian electronic musician Peaches at Meltdown.

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