It is impossible to envision the counterculture of the twentieth century without Yoko Ono coming to mind. Known as an eccentric avant-gardiste, as well as an outspoken activist, Ono is a pioneer of multimedia art, treating her practice as a way to express both her dreams for society and her musings on it.

Yoko Ono, Half-A-Room, from Half – A Wind Show at Lisson Gallery London Photo by Clay Perry ©Yoko Ono

Her pieces, known for being experimental and radical by the art world and the general public, have now been curated by the Tate Modern into an exhibition titled Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind. Comprised of over 200 scores, films, installations, music, and photography, it is the largest collection of Ono’s work ever seen in the U.K. The exhibition is loosely chrono-logical, covering the artist’s time in New York, Tokyo, and London, creating a timeline of a life conceptualizing art and making public statements.

The exhibition intends to engage the public in a discourse: Add Colour (Refugee Boat) invites visitors to paint on blank walls and a boat, reflecting on the refugee crisis, and visitors are encouraged to take puzzle pieces of the sky from the Helmets (Pieces of Sky) piece.

Yoko Ono with Glass Hammer 1967 from HALF-A-WIND SHOW, Lisson Gallery, London, 1967. Photo © Clay Perry

Through this curation, Ono claims her space in the spotlight while also welcoming us into her process, reframing her notoriety as the muse of one of the great musicians of our time. Her draft of Grapefruit, which inspired John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, and photos of her first ‘instruction paintings’, which detail philosophical approaches to making paintings, will be on display for the first time. Her use of her platform gains traction in today’s digital scape when collaboration and social leverage have never been more ubiquitous. Some of her humanitarian pieces, in partnership with Lennon, highlight the magnitude of what they achieved by leveraging their global celebrity together, like the film BED PEACE (1969), in which they speak with the world’s media in Amsterdam and Montreal to promote peace during wartime.

Like Ono’s footprint on global activism, her expressions of feminism through art are significant. Films, such as Freedom, and music; like Sisters O Sisters, Woman Power, and Rising, all made between 1970-1995 are exhibited in recognition of her ruminations on women’s justified rage towards gendered violence.

At last, Ono’s reputation as one of our cen- tury’s best dreamers has been put on full display. As an artist whose work inspired many other creative trailblazers from Björk to Lady Gaga to Patti Smith, in this installment, Ono shows us how she paved her own way. Collectively, we are offered both a window into the unseen facets of her imagination and an opportunity to contribute to it; may her unbridled creativity offer us some inspiration as we build a more vibrant future.

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece 1964 Performed by Yoko Ono in “New Works by Yoko Ono”, Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC , March 21 1965. Photo by Minoru

YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND will be on view at the Tate Modern until September.

This story appears in the pages of V147: now available for purchase!

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