Details — Click to read
Designed by Josephine Taylor, 2020
Lyrics by Yoko Ono, 1973
Paper kozo, typeface Pyramid, also used by Ono in Grapefruit, 1964
Binding by Erin McAdams, San Francisco
Edition of 5 + 2AP
ONO (White) is a tribute to Yoko Ono’s visionary work across genres, including her conceptual art, performance art, print, and music. Embedded in the small book are nods to many Ono works that came into being in the late 60’s-early 70’s, but which have been recreated in the past decades. These include, but are not limited to, White Chess Set (1966/2015); Cut Piece (1964, reenacted by Peaches in 2013 under Ono’s direction); Painting to See the Skies (1964) and her Sky Pieces (2019); “Now or Never” from her album Approximately Infinite Universe (1973) and rerecorded for album Warzone (2018); and her first book of conceptual instructions, Grapefruit (1964/2000).
Ono has always been a feminist icon to me, firmly committed to her own work prior to her partnership with John Lennon, during it, and long after his death into the present day. Her lifelong archive of work refutes stereotypes based on gender, nationality, class, cultural identity, and age. Her work has always been, and continues to be, genre-bending, radical, visionary, and demanding. Her work upends traditional roles of the artist and “viewer”, and in doing so, models alternatives that can be applied to opposing factions in times of war, and gender dynamics.
Thinking about a making a portrait of Ono, it didn’t make sense to draw her likeness. Ono’s practice has never emphasized superficial concerns nor been intricately connected to Ono herself, her face, her body. Ono’s work is rooted in thought, in clouds, in sky, in words, in entrusting the participant to do the work. So that’s what I wanted to make a portrait of. Listening to her song “Now or Never”, first recorded in 1973, it sounded as if it could have been written today, about where we stand as humans in 2020. There is a slow, deliberate cadence to the song, an emphasis on each word. It requires patience from the listener. Listening to it, I imagined the lyrics as a book. I imagined reading one word per page, and I imagined the amount of labour and time required of the reader.
The book is composed of 10 sheets of paper, folded so that the majority of the pages can only be seen when the reader cuts the edges themselves. This act makes the reader the author, too. The reader could choose to cut only a few pages, and in doing so, they would be authoring an entirely new version of the lyrics. There is also a permanence in doing so, counterbalanced by the impermanence of paper. The letters are burned into the page, and when a single page is held up to the sky, you can see the light through the burned words. The words become made of sky.