Yoko Ono takes us To The Light

Yoko Ono Installation view, Yoko Ono: TO THE LIGHT Serpentine Gallery, London (19 June - 9 September 2012) © 2012 Jerry Hardman-Jones

Whatever your opinion of Yoko Ono, I urge you to go and see her latest exhibition ‘To The Light’ at London’s Serpentine gallery whilst you still can. Just don’t go to see it with a stinking hangover (I’ll explain more later!).

Described by John Lennon as the world’s most famous unknown artist, this collection brings together works from the illustrious Japanese writer, musician and peace activist’s long career – spanning back to well before she was labeled a witch by mewling Lennon lovers.

Personally, I couldn’t give two hoots about Ono’s Beatles connection. I just think she’s a great artist. Take her instruction paintings, for example. The purest form of conceptual art, these typed up words ask the viewer to essentially create the piece within their heads. First published in 1964 in a book entitled Grapefruit, I am happy to note that there are a bunch of Instruction Paintings here.

Of course Lennon is always going to have a presence in her work, and he’s here at the Serpentine too – from the video of him smiling (film number 5 smile 1968) to the infamous stepladder leading up to the ‘Yes’ Ceiling Painting (1966) that was apparently central to their first meeting.

One particularly moving piece was a piece of paper smudged with the combined footsteps of Yoko and John (Footsteps we made) which they had, apparently, ‘got into doing’. ‘Now, 40 years later, ’ Yoko writes, ‘I held the paper and made the footsteps go from the floor towards the ceiling. I saw something I didn’t see then. We were walking to the sky.’ Call me a bit of a soppy Sally (or you can blame my Sunday-morning hangover for kicking in at this point), but this piece especially was testament to WHY it makes sense that Lennon is always in the background. There’s no doubt that these two creatives shared a massive and consuming love that still lingers, somehow, today.

Yoko Ono Installation view, Yoko Ono: TO THE LIGHT Serpentine Gallery, London (19 June - 9 September 2012) © 2012 Jerry Hardman-Jones

Quite removed from romance, it’s Ono’s ‘Cut Piece’ films that are undoubtedly the emotional highpoint of this show. Interpreted as one of her most feminist works, the Cut Piece is also one of the most well-known examples of performance art, and one that Ono carried out and filmed in both 1964 and 2003. In this exhibition, the two films sit across from one another, creating a quiet dialogue of their own.

Essentially the performance involves the artist sitting before an audience and inviting people to come up and cut a piece of her clothing away, one after the other. It’s an experiment in participation, trust, bravery and power… and the difference between the two films is remarkable.

In the ‘60s version, we are witness to a dignified yet slightly scared young girl sitting on the floor, wearing a calm expression like that of someone waiting for an injection to be administered. Slowly, people snip away pieces of cloth, until participators become bolder in their interactions. One man circles Onomenacingly, to laughs from the audience, before making his first incision. The piece comes to an abrupt halt soon after the one audience member addresses the audience with a smirk that he will ‘take his time’ and be ‘gentle’, before gleefully removing her entire camisole and slitting through both her bra straps. It’s a shocking and unsettling watch.

Feeling shaken from the first film, the second later version is somewhat of an antidote. This colour film from almost 40 years later shows the Yoko Ono we all know and…well, maybe not love, but…you know. She looks strong, experienced, tired.  ‘It looks like someone who went through a shocking life,’ Yokohas said of it, ‘which is true.’ She seems open and accepting of her visitors and they, in turn, are compassionate and towards her. Often they talk to her before making their contribution, one participant pins a medal on her and kisses her on the cheek, another cuts off a piece of her own clothing and places it on Ono’s exposed leg.

As a piece of performance art, Cut Piece is important and thought-provoking , but as an  exploratory piece challenging social norms, it’s an absolutely fascinating and very emotional experience… And absolutely too much to cope with on a hangover.

So, please PLEASE do go and see To The Light whilst it’s still on (it’s free!), just don’t do it the morning after the night before.

To The Light runs until the 9th of September 2012

More info here> http://www.serpentinegallery.org

By: Sarah Barnes, 03.09.2012 | Comments (0)
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Can Feminist Art Change The World?

That, my friends, is the question posed by the organisers of the Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism and it’s a discussion they are keen to get you involved in!

The 3 day long ‘carnival’ (part conference, part festival) is set to take place in March 2011 at the University of York but, in the meantime, the organisers are keen to enlist all sorts of voices to take part in the event itself and discuss what feminist art can do for society. So, if you are an academic, an artist, an activist, all of these or none at all, and you have an opinion that you want to share on how creative culture can address issues of power and gender then these Feminist Cultural Activists want to hear from you!

Perhaps you have an idea for a presentation, a performance, an exhibition or a workshop… whatever it is, get in touch with the event organisers and share your thoughts.

Deadline for all proposals is the 31st of October, so you’d better get a wiggle on if you want to get involved! All the info you will need on how to submit can be found here.

Although the content for this carnival is still being collected together, I’m already pencilling the dates into my diary, such is my excitement around the theme! Registration for the event won’t be open until the 20th of November, but the organisers have already published the prices for early bird tickets, so start saving up now to make sure you don’t miss out! All other details can be found on the Feminist Cultural Activism website and also on their Facebook event page.

(Image is of the Guerilla Girls, of course!)

By: Sarah Barnes, 20.10.2010 | Comments (0)
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What is ‘Feminism’? Answers on a Postcard…

Personally, I don’t think I’d be able to fit all my thoughts about feminism onto a postcard (if that was possible, this blog wouldn’t exist!) – let alone make said postcard aesthetically pleasing and worthy of being put up for auction! Hats off, then, to the 38 people who have done just that for tonight’s Feminism in London Postcard Auction.

Raising funds for this years Feminism in London conference (taking place on the 23rd of October) the auction will include works from artists, writers, activists and feminists – even musician Kate Nash has got in on the action with her cut-and-paste commentary on the way women are treated within the music industry.

My personal favourite is Hayden Kaye’s take on toilet door signage (always an interesting starting point when looking at social gender construction) and I’m glad to see one of my favourite illustrators, Julie Verhoeven, is on board too. The whole thing has been curated by the anarchic and witty Sarah Maple, who has been declared as ‘The heir to Tracey Emin’s throne’ by The Independent on Sunday.

The auction starts tonight from 8pm at East London’s Aubin Gallery, but you’ll want to get there a bit earlier to secure your entry (for £7) and get your mitts on some free drinks! All the details are here, happy bidding!

(Hurray for UK Feminista for bringing this event to my attention, and also the The Guardian for covering it so extensively!)

By: Sarah Barnes, 04.10.2010 | Comments (1)
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You’ve got FeMail

Another day, another exciting Ladyfest Ten project to get involved in! This time, those creative types at Storm In A Tea Cup are hoping to get women (and men) from all over the world to participate via the medium of snail mail in their Postcard Project.

Whilst Ladyfest Ten, as an event, will be taking place this November in London, the aim is to celebrate ten fantastic years of the grass-roots female arts phenomenon that is Ladyfest. Since Ladyfest has been celebrated all over the world, it seems only right to invite those it has touched to contribute in some way. This particular artistic global outreach aims to bring together those Ladyfesters from around the world in a huge support of this very unique female focussed fest.

Feeling inspired? Well, before you starts scribbling away please bear in mind that there is a theme and that theme is ‘X’. As well as being the roman numeral for Ten, it is also the kiss sign… and in Norse mythology is the letter for GIFT (you really do learn something new everyday!)

Submissions can be in any medium- as long as it still passes for a postcard and fits through a letterbox then the rest is up to you! Perhaps even adorn your creation with one of these Women of Distinction stamps, shown above, for extra feminist brownie points… Just make sure you get it to the Ladyfest Ten team by October 15th – address is here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 03.09.2010 | Comments (0)
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Who took the bomp? Ladyfest Ten’s Le Tigre Benefit

Oh Le Tigre, how I love thee. I remember being 17 and thinking I was the epitome of cool for driving around with Feminist Sweepstakes blaring from my speakers, and how chuffed I was to get one of their band T shirts for my 18th birthday. It’s cool to admit to that, right?

I do love a bit of feminist electroclash, but as the group have been relatively inactive since 2006, I’ve not had much of a chance to publicly revel in my fan-grrrl adoration for the feisty threesome. 

Massive kudos then to the Ladyfest Ten crew (in collaboration with Unskinny Bop), who have organised a Le Tigre themed benefit, More Crackers Please! to take place on August 29th. The venue will be the ultra cute Bethnal Green library, and there’s a whole 12 hours of riot grrl fun to be had, from 2pm to 2am the following day. An outline of the festivities can be found on the Facebook event page here. Stalls! Zines! Karaoke! I better make sure my band t shirt is ironed and ready for the occasion :)

Tickets for the event go on sale on Monday 16th August, and can be purchased from the We Got Tickets website for a mere £9. All proceeds from ticket sales will be going to Ladyfest Ten, another essential date for the feminist calender! Hopefully we’ll be seeing y’all there.

By: Yasmin Eshref, 13.08.2010 | Comments (1)
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Stylist goes Feminist!

I don’t know about you but for me, being on the London Underground in rush hour, in the midst of summer, is my idea of hell. A combination of the raging heat, musty smell and dirty carriages does not always leave me a happy passenger. Hurrah then for Stylist, the only free publication that’s sure to perk up my commute into work every day.

Stylist is a free publication with a difference, focusing not on typical tube fodder (see: property sales, sports, or endless gardening products…) but instead offering fabulous fashion straight from the catwalk, health and beauty advice, and in this month’s issue, a sassy feminist feature!

The War on Women focuses on many of the problems facing females worldwide today, including: sex slavery, genital mutilation, rape, unequal pay, media sexualisation and gendercide.

As well as including sensitively handled articles by Kate Graham, the feature also includes a list of ways the reader can proactively involve themselves in fighting the battle for equality.

It was refreshing and uplifting (which obviously, we ladies here approve of!) to see Kate Graham’s pro-women feature in such a widely circulating publication, so much so that I would like to share it with those who may not have had a chance to read it yet. The article, and indeed the whole magazine, can be viewed online for free on the Stylist website here, to skip forward to The War on Women please go to pages 40-41. You may also be interested in The Stylist Facebook page, and/or their official Twitter account.

By: Yasmin Eshref, 01.08.2010 | Comments (2)
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Donate To The F-Word Redesign Fund!

I’m sure many of the readers here will be as enamoured as I am with the fantastic feminist website The F Word but, for the uninitiated, this site shows contemporary UK feminism in all its glory – and has been doing since way back in 2001. More than just an online source for feminist news; it’s a lively community that nurtures, engages and questions its writers and readers alike. Hell, it’s the site that just keeps giving… and now it needs you to give something back!

The F Word team are eager for a lick of virtual paint to revamp the site – and this requires money! With the site being non-profit and advert free, this means The F Word are now looking to the community it has established over all these years to make donations. So, why should you dig deep? Well, a revamped F Word will not only look good but it will also, most likely, become easier and more pleasing to navigate – making your whole feminist reading experience pretty darn satisfying!

Websites such as The F Word are so important for the modern feminist movement – As F Word Founder Catherine Redfern and feminist lecturer Kristin Aune observed in their book, Reclaiming The F Word, feminists today cite engaging with the Internet as the biggest influence on their development as a feminist than any other activity!

Donate here to The F Word Redesign fund, and ensure that this engagement is as enjoyable and fulfilling as feminists deserve it to be!

By: Sarah Barnes, 21.07.2010 | Comments (0)
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Register for the Feminism In London conference

I’ve just heard the good news (from The F Word blog) that the Feminism In London one-day conference is now open for registration! The programme is full of interesting speakers and plenty of workshops to choose from (including ‘Young, old feminists: Getting to know each other’, ‘Confronting privilege, contributing to change, for men only’ and ‘A space to recover for women of colour only’)

It’s great news to hear that this event is completely child friendly, with a creche (run by the London Pro-Feminist Men’s Network) and relevant workshops for 12-18 year olds. It’s also good to know that trans women are welcome at the women-only workshops and trans men are welcome at the men-only workshop.

You will need to get your skates on to ensure you get a place on the workshop of your choice, so register here asap! You can find out more about the event at the FIL website, and keep up to date until the event via the FIL twitterfeed.

By: Sarah Barnes, 11.07.2010 | Comments (0)
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School’s In For Summer!

With the summer finally making itself apparent, the thoughts of many are turning to sun, sea and sand… but for others it’s the perfect opportunity to geek out about all things feminist! UK Feminista’s Summer School is a free, two day London event incorporating discussions and workshops that will invigorate and inspire all those striving for a more gender equal world.

With speakers including Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters, Jess McCabe of the F Word and journalists Kira Cochrane and Hannah Pool, the line-up looks top-notch and the workshops and seminars are in much needed areas, such as ‘Why climate change is a feminist issue’, ‘Men and masculinity’ and ‘Promoting diversity within feminist groups’.

So, whilst you are planning your summer get-aways, make sure you devote the weekend of July 31st – August 1st to re-educating and re-connecting with your feminism.

Full event details here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 28.06.2010 | Comments (0)
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Ladyfest Ten Festival Dates Confirmed

Exciting news today as Ladyfest Ten confirm the dates for the festival! Get out your diaries now and mark down the 12th, 13th and 14th of November 2010, because something tells me this is going to be a fantastic event…

Ladyfest Ten will be celebrating 10 whole years of Ladyfests – the global, grassroots festival that celebrates and promotes female creativity. The three day event will be taking place around various North London venues, including The Relentless Garage.

Confirmed acts and ticketing details will not be broadcast until next month, but the organisers are promising an exciting and diverse programme of female-fronted music, arts, film, literature, comedy, craft, workshops and even sport! If you want to keep up to date with all the details as they unfold, then make sure you follow the Ladyfesters on their Facebook andTwitter pages.

Oh, and if you want to get involved, don’t worry – it’s not too late! The next Ladyfest Ten meeting will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday 30th June 2010 at the Southbank Centre. See the website for more details.

By: Sarah Barnes, 23.06.2010 | Comments (0)
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