YES Yoko Ono 

Opening Weekend: Part I

Related Events Opening Weekend

Early Walker Center News

Japan Society News Release

YES Yoko Ono Book

Opening Weekend Events, Continued

By Marsha Ewing

(After Hours/Preview Ticket)

Friday evening came and it was time to dress up and head out to the After Hours Party at the Walker.  We had overheard snippets of conversations among Walker staffers earlier in the day about how elbow-to-elbow packed it would probably be. None of the staffers we heard talking about it were planning to attend because of the expected crush of people.  Their dire predictions were absolutely correct.

Tom dropped Keri and I off at the front door and he drove away into the night to find a parking place.  He was gone for a very long time, but eventually showed up at the event, looking just a touch frazzled.  He'd been forced to park far, far away.  A shuttle bus would have come in handy, but since this was not Disney World, none was provided.

I soon discovered that this particular event was not my cup of tea.  However, a cup of tea would have been nice. People were jammed, crammed and mayhemmed everywhere we turned.  In fact, turning was difficult.  Phil and Kevin showed up and we talked a bit, but this was not a time or place to have a meaningful conversation. We had also hoped to meet another Kevin - Kevin Concannon - at this event, but there was absolutely no chance of finding him, especially since we didn't know at that time what he looks like!  We had been playing elevator phone tag earlier in the day, but finally decided our best chance of meeting him was at the performance on Saturday.

The moving space around the bar was especially sardine-like, so we ruled out the idea of getting a beverage.  I made one sorry attempt to blast my way through the increasingly noisy drinking crowd, but these people were not to be budged away from their Martini of the Month, which was, appropriately enough, named "
In Flux."

Yoko's Wish Tree had been placed next to the Auditorium door, and since there was a slight clearing in that general area, we took the time to fill out our wishes and hang them on the tree.  It's always interesting reading other people's wishes.   As Phil put it, "Some people are really practical."  There were "I hope I win a big jackpot" wishes and "I hope my home loan goes through" wishes, along with "I wish for peace" and other more global dreams.  One person had written, "I wish this tree was outside" - obviously an environmentalist in the crowd.  The tree was alive and in a big bucket of dirt, and I have a feeling the Walker people plan to put the tree outside later this summer.  Besides, with the temperatures as bone-chilling as they were, the tree was probably happy being indoors!

We were getting tired from standing on the hard floors and decided to attend the showing of the 77-minute "Rape" in the Auditorium.  I thought I'd seen "Rape" before, but realized I had only seen clips and stills from it.  So it wasn't immediately obvious to me that something was wrong. We realized later that the reels had gotten mixed up and the film had been started in the middle, when the woman is locked in her apartment and getting really frantic.  Then the credits ran.  Then the woman was suddenly walking outdoors in a cemetery, seemingly enjoying the attention the cameraman was giving her.  Tom wanted to know how she got out of her apartment, and why her mood had brightened.  The movie ended with the reel running out and the screen going white.  The film had been shown bassackwards.  But at least we were sitting down. We decided to call it a night.  Yoko reportedly made an appearance at the party, but we didn't see her.  

(Performance Ticket)

DAY THREE - MARCH 10, 2001


Tom and I had attended two previous Yoko lectures - both at the Cranbrook Academy of Art a few years apart, so we sort of knew what to expect:  Expect the unexpected.  This lecture was definitely the most unexpected and amazing of the three.   In previous lectures, Yoko had crawled around on the floor finding her "comfort zone," jumped off a ladder to demonstrate the art of flying, performed "Whisper Piece" with the audience and "Promise Piece" ended one lecture.  

On Saturday, March 10 at the Walker Art Center, Yoko was joined by art historian, Kristine Stiles and the two of them set out to answer the question, "What is Art?" Since we were unable to record this event, I am going to try to recreate it from memory.  My description may be slightly different from another audience member's.  Each person perceives things and remembers them in his or her own way.  This will simply be my recollections and reflections on the event, and not necessarily in the order each element took place.

To set the scene:  Two chairs flanking a round table with water glasses; a long, low bench with 5 white ceramic objects lined across the top; Yoko's microphone under the bench for some unknown reason.  To the right, a set of bongo drums bathed in a spotlight.

The lecture began when Yoko, dressed all in black,  walked onto the stage, searched for the microphone which she apparently thought would be on the bench, not under it (Tom pointed it out to her) and then stood over the objects on the bench.  The first object looked like a perfectly fine teapot.  She held it up and showed us there was no bottom, making it totally useless, so "this is art."  Audience laughter. The next object was a teapot with many holes, no spout or handle.  "This is more expensive art."    More laughter.  There were a couple of teapot parts that Yoko held up, including a spout which she said some people might think looked somewhat like a part of the male anatomy.  Even more laughter.  

Then Yoko held up her microphone and screamed, "Kristine!" and Kristine Stiles walked out carrying a batch of the cards from the exhibit that have Yoko's instruction pieces printed on them.  The first part of the lecture featured Ms.Stiles and Yoko adlibbing back and forth about the meaning of some of the instructions on the cards.  I had heard that Kristine and Yoko hadn't really gotten together ahead of time to discuss what they would do, and Kristine's Mind Games obviously took Yoko by surprise. But she was up to the task and came up with in-depth answers and explanations.   The two women related extremely well and were obviously enjoying the give-and-take sparring.

While this was going on, Jon Hendricks and another man sat on the stage and cut pieces of yarn and put them in jars.  The audience also was completely wrapped in yarn. (Tom thought to pick up a piece of the yarn that was left on the floor after the event was over and we brought that home to add to my memorabilia collection.)

Things got even more interesting when Yoko screamed into the microphone "Sam!!" and Sam Koppelman walked out onto the stage, sat down by the bongos, rubbed lotion on his hands and with a big grin on his face, began to provide percussive accompaniment to what Yoko and Kristine were doing across the stage.  They had gotten into a brown bag, which was actually a gauzy piece of fabric that totally covered both women, hugging their bodies so the audience could sort of see what was going on under the cover, but not quite.....  During this portion of the lecture, Yoko and Kristine appeared to be disrobing underneath the, socks and a hair clip Ms. Stiles had been wearing were set outside the bag, there were giggles and much wiggling around.  Yoko stood up a couple of times.  It was the strangest looking thing!   Like an amoeba in brown water, and with Sam Koppelman's rimshots and patters on the bongos, the whole experience had a very surreal feel. 

(Photo From Yoko's 
"Rising" LP - 
Left to Right: 
Timo Ellis; 
Sam Koppelman; 
Yoko; Sean Lennon)

Just as I'm sure Yoko had intended, the audience's collective imagination was running amok. You could feel the anticipation in the air.  After a very long time, Yoko and Ms. Stiles emerged from the bag with most of their clothing intact, although  Yoko remained barefoot and Ms. Stiles left the hair clip out. But other than their hair being slightly mussed up, they were back to normal.  (At one point, Tom guessed that they were switching clothes, but I pointed out to him that Yoko was about 5-foot-2 and that Ms. Stiles was closer to 5-feet-10. She had joked earlier when Yoko jumped up and attempted to dance around the stage with her, that she was bigger so she got to be the man and lead.)

After this extraordinary event, the two women returned to center stage to the table and chairs, but Yoko sat down on the floor, remarking that she wanted to see how things looked from that angle.  Eventually,
Yoko got up and started using her 16-track voice, punctuated by Sam's answering beats.  The interplay between Yoko's voice and Koppelman's drumming was fascinating and exciting as Yoko made her voice do all kinds of tricks, slides and staccato notes. She danced and spun and swirled around the stage, arms reaching out like a figure skater winding into her final spins. All the while, "It's Time for Action" was playing on a giant screen at the back of the stage. The images presented were the mosaic patterned scenes from the "Blueprint for the Sunrise" DVD which feature John and Yoko marching in the streets and ends with a photograph of John, Yoko and Sean disappearing into the woods.  Yoko's screams were filled with anguish  during this part of the song, which ended with Yoko stretched out on the stage floor.

And then Yoko said, "Now it's your turn."

It was time for questions from the audience.  One lady very emotionally commented that the scene of Ms. Stiles and Yoko wrapped in the bag reminded her of Islamic women and the struggles they endure. She thanked Yoko for her art on behalf of women everywhere.  Other people had questions about individual art pieces; how does Yoko maintain her positive attitude; etc.

Lisa D'Amour, who had performed Yoko's "Painting to Shake Hands" during the day, asked Yoko how she found the courage to do these audience participation.  Ms. D'Amour is scheduled to perform "Cut Piece" at the Walker in April and she expressed concern about it.  Yoko said she, too, had been terrified when she performed the original "Cut Piece" but felt it was important enough to do it anyway.  She commented about how vulnerable one feels.  After making sure that D'Amour was finished performing "Painting to Shake Hands" for the day, Yoko told her own horror story about the piece.  She said she was shaking hands during an art event in France, when suddenly a woman bit her!   Yoko said, "I screamed!"

(Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting
Photo By Marsha Ewing)

Another person wanted to know how people in 2001 are supposed to experience the art when most of the pieces are off-limits and can't be touched.  She was referring specifically to "Ceiling Painting"-"Yes Painting" with the ladder leading up to a small printed YES on the ceiling which one looks at through a magnifying glass.  Yoko explained that the installation is a retrospective - something to view rather than re-live.  

(Earlier in the day, Tom, Phil, Kevin, Keri and I were discussing the Ladder piece and we had surmised that in this day and age, museums and galleries would not want people climbing ladders because if someone fell off and broke a leg, the institution would be held liable in a lawsuit.  We're cynical maybe?)

After the questions, our Afternoon With Yoko Ono was over and she left the stage.  Two teenagers who were excited to get front row center seats, had been disappointed earlier when they were told "no photos" and "no autographs."  After the performance, they asked again and this time, someone went backstage and asked Yoko if she would come back to sign something for her fans.  She did so - and this prompted several other people to head down to the stage with items to be signed.  After a few minutes, Yoko was whisked away and the weekend was over for our crew.  Phil and Kevin were heading back home immediately.  Tom and I were staying over one more night, with plans to leave early Sunday morning.  Keri was staying an extra day to meet up with a friend.  Our group had come to Minnesota from Michigan, Kentucky and Wisconsin to see Yoko and I think each one of us carried away some very special feelings in our hearts, as well as memories to cherish for a lifetime.  Yoko's message of hope, love and trust is so clear for those who care to listen.

This account is all I can remember for now.  If more thoughts come to me, I'll add them later.  We have many more photos which we will share as time goes by.  Every one of you is invited to share your own experiences from this amazing weekend, or from future visits to see Yes Yoko Ono at the Walker Art Center.  The retrospective will be there through June 17th. 

One Note:  We finally did find Kevin Concannon - or more accurately, he found us waiting in line to get into the performance on Saturday.  Kevin contributed a well-researched chapter in the Yes Yoko Ono book: Nothing IsReal: Yoko Ono's Advertising Art.  Hopefully we will meet again under less hectic circumstances and have a chance to talk.  Kevin told us he had done some time in radio, which wasn't too surprising. He had one of those unmistakable "radio voices."