Friday, July 05, 2019

Bells for Peace

When John Lennon first met Yoko Ono she was already an established artist. In fact, he was at her show. not her at his, and he asked to participate in a work of art that offered the opportunity to hammer a nail in. Ono's art has always been participatory but has also been very aware of its value. 

What was wonderful about "Bells for Peace" at Cathedral Gardens in Manchester last night was that after at least 30 years of being a fan, I was able to participate in one of Yoko's works. Whereas artists like Tunick and Deller can seem to use people as material, Ono, one of the original Fluxus associates, has work that can only exist when we participate - we are the art - and so it was last night, as we responded to her instructions, simple do-able actions that are familiar to any readers of her book "Grapefruit", but made real because there are 4000 of us. The "bells" are a McGuffin in some sense, a way that we can physically understand the instrutions to believe in love and peace.

It was a wonderful occasion. Given that the last MIF ended with the cynicism of Phil Collin's terrible "Ceremony", this was wonderful palliative - an art of giving - of belonging. We rang our bells in catherdral gardens and for a brief point in time, the 50 years of calling for peace, that is central not just to Yoko's art, but to the vision we have of her and John Lennon, was palpable. Even the call to speak to a cloud - in a Manchester sky where a single grey alabaster dominated - didn't dampen the mood but instead made us laugh in a communion.