ORGAN THING: Starting the new art year with Yoko Ono’s Mend Piece at East London’s Whitechapel Gallery…

Yoko Ono – Mend Piece – Whitechapel Gallery, East London, January 1st 2022 – Okay, can I claim to have spent New Year’s Day and the start of my art year with some leaves left and a collaboration with Yoko Ono, not that Yoko knows it was me who left that piece on the shelf – my piece is anonymously sitting there on the white shelf with with all the others. Yoko’s rather under-publicised Mend Piece had been happening at Whitechapel Gallery since late August, it closed last weekend and well, what a fine way to start 2022, how can anyone not like Yoko and the positive things she continues to say in the face of it all?   

“Visitors are invited to participate in an interactive installation by world-famous artist, musician and activist Yoko Ono. MEND PIECE for London begins with a set of simple instructions: ‘Mend carefully. / Think of mending the world at the same time’. On entering Galleries 5 and 6, take a seat at a table on which are placed broken fragments of ceramic cups and saucers and some simple materials for repair – scissors, glue, twine and tape. When you have finished ‘mending’, you can display the results of your efforts along the shelves on the walls.

“Ono first presented this work as Mending Piece I at her 1966 solo exhibition at Indica Gallery, London, a renowned centre for countercultural art. Titled Yoko at Indica: Unfinished Paintings and Objects, almost every work in the exhibition was designed to be completed through the actions of visitors. Such instruction-based works established Ono as an important figure in the development of both Fluxus and Conceptual art. Her extensive career has since spanned performance, writing, visual art, experimental music and film. A commitment to participation and collaboration has also informed ongoing and tireless campaigns for peace and non-violence”.

“MEND PIECE for London draws on the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with precious metals such as gold and silver. The process nurtures breakage as an important part of an object’s history, rather than seeking to disguise it. In this artwork, the physical act of repair becomes a timely metaphor for a different kind of mending which takes place in the mind and through community”.

Now I’ve loved Yoko ever since I first heard John Lennon tell the tale of how he first encountered her art with that ladder he had to climb and the looking glass and the tiny “yes” written on the canvas when he got up there and how, if it had said “no” then he wouldn’t have been so interested. I kind of wanted to write a very small “Yes” on my Mend Piece, really wish I had now, I did fumble for a pen and that stopped. Strangely (was it “strangely”? Is that the right word?), strangely it did feel good to connect with Yoko and her piece, if felt like an honour to walk in and just take a seat and take part with her, it felt (strangely?) emotional. I could easily have worn my cynical smile and dismissed it as hippy nonsense as we wrestle with the apathy of now and the worry of the Climate Change emergency and what we’re going to leave, of the mess of the pandemic and the collective reaction to it, but but bit, as I have said several times already this new year, I do believe art is mostly a force for good, that right now we need art and engagement with art more than ever. We need a free-spirited Indica more than ever (Whitechapel is, how can we politely put it? A little bit stiff).

There is something about quietly sitting there in the warmth of the gallery with strangers mending things 8the guy next to us was called Jonathan) , is is all very (very) simple it is something that invites contemplation, it did feel peaceful, open ended,  it felt good on New Year’s Day. Do like the way her pieces never feel to be about her, that they feel more about us, about everyone. And when you do consider everything she has experienced, including growing up during the Second World War in Japan and living through the bomb, being right there and how her life has been a positive reaction to those and so many more experiences. yes, she does make you look at the shape of clouds, Yoko does make you smile inside.

Mend Piece has been shown many time since the 60’s, this one felt good, it felt right to spend a little time, a moment of pause, thinking about, well just about things, about the spark, about, well just the about of it all. A fine start to the year, kind of glad we didn’t make it to the gallery until almost the last day and the brief feeling that comes with the fresh start to a new year that will soon wash away again, sorry we didn’t cover it before it ended though, sorry we didn’t mention is while it was actually happening although I do kind of need to go back and do it again now that I’ve thoughy about it. so yes, I should have gone there a couple on months ago damnit. I like Yoko, thank you Yoko, no doubt someone will tell me she’s full of shit, that’ I’m full of shit and to use a term from right now, “blah blah blah”, but that is it, you need to park your cynical smile and at least think about the process, the idea/ A damn good way to ease into 2022, fractured times, fractured art, fractured pieces, a good feeling though, a good start, thank you Yoko.  (sw)          

Do click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show

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