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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Romance Is Dead. Long Live Art!

Death Drawing (the new incarnation of the Swallows and Amazons drawing salons we have bigged up so heartily in the past) is back after its January debut with an artistic alternative to all the Clintons cards cutesy-ness that’s going on at the moment.  So, if you’re London based, love-lorn and of an artistic nature, then this is most likely your perfect way to spit in the face of Saint Valentine!

Death Drawing aims to bring ‘a lethal injection of theatricality, curiosity and the macabre’ to the traditional life-drawing salon, and this month’s anti-valentine’s themed session is no exception. Taking place on the 15th of February at East London’s Victoria pub, the event promises participants a very bloody Valentine’s with plenty of broken hearts to inspire their scribblings. Guests are even invited to exorcise their heartache by bringing along old love letters and unwanted Valentine’s cards to add to a shrine to romance.

The salon starts at 8pm and costs £8, with all art materials provided for you – Just make sure you reserve a place because it’s bound to be packed! All the details are handily laid out for your perusal on this here Facebook Event Page. Lovely.

By: Sarah Barnes, 08.02.2011 | Comments (0)
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Tonight! Swallows and Amazons Life-Drawing Salon is Turning Japanese!

Tonight sees our favourite London life-drawing salon, Swallows and Amazons, looking to Japanese art and culture for inspiration; presenting models playing with stereotypes of Geisha and Samurai and encouraging artists to get creative with traditional inking techniques and Manga styles.

Get yourself down to The Victoria Pub, Mile End, from 8 o’clock to join in the flexing of creative muscles – Full details are here. Entry is just £6, which includes all the artistic materials you will need, and every penny goes towards Ladyfest Ten!

By: Sarah Barnes, 12.10.2010 | 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 (0)
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‘Made’ makes my day at LFW

When it comes to jewellery, I don’t ‘do’ girly or glitzy (dahlink!) – for me, chains have to be chunky or it just feels all wrong. To my mind, there’s just something a bit inauthentic about the glittery, flimsy chains and glued-on diamantés that flood our high-street stores. I long for something a bit more robust, a bit earthy… Which is why I have always loved fair-trade jewellery brand Made’s gorgeous pieces.

I finally treated myself to their recycled brass loop necklace earlier this year and, although it stung my wallet a wee bit, I have very much got my money’s worth out of it since. I even wore it to collect Uplift’s Cosmo Blog Award earlier this month – and got complimented on it in the comments section on that blog!

I should, of course, be telling you that the reason I love Made jewellery is because it is an inspirationally modern business  project that works with East African artisans, paying fair wages and providing support at every level, with the aim of bringing disadvantaged communities out of poverty through a ‘trade not aid’ ethos. This is true; this is, indeed, one of the reasons I love Made.  But I think the fact that they create genuinely great, clunky, charming jewellery pieces is just as important. If they didn’t, if their range was lack-lustre and un-inspired, then the whole thing would fall flat… and where would that leave those that they support?

To keep things fresh, Made team up with a host of collaborators to design one-off ranges. Big design names such as Jamie Rubin, Brian Crumley and even starlets such as Alexa Chung have had a hand contributing directional pieces in the past… so when it came to visiting the Estethica exhibition at London Fashion Week this month, I naturally made a bee-line to Made’s stall to check out the talents they had enlisted this season.

Central Saint Martin’s trained jeweller Hattie Rickards is the new designer in the Made fold. Her collection (some of which is shown above) draws on the natural world, casting from fish bones, shark teeth and seed pods to create a colourful, magpie-like pick and mix collection. I expect her pieces won’t drop until spring, so we’ll just have to wait with baited breath until then.

The big name on board for September is Laura Bailey, who has created some incredibly covet-able pieces that trip along a fine line between delicate and sturdy, simplistic and elaborate. More importantly, she has become a great ambassador for the company – having written a piece for The Times on their work and putting her fine features into the frame for the campaign.

Laura Bailey for Made from Made on Vimeo.

After spending far too long salivating over all these new designs (making me late for the next show, oops!) I was very lucky to be presented with a lovely freebie – a collection of beaded bangles. True to the Made design ethos, they are simple, striking and have that personal feel (you can see the lathe marks on each metal disc, the idiosyncrasies in each glass bead) that makes sure your mind will turn to the good work that Made do whenever you wear it. Whilst this little freebie really made my day, it’s great to think that Made are making lives, one day at a time, for those involved in and supported by the project.

By: Sarah Barnes, 26.09.2010 | Comments (0)
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Estethica at LFW

Whilst New York creates the classics, Paris is chic and Milan has the glamour, London Fashion Week is all about pushing things forward… and when it comes to sustainability and responsibilty, boy does the fashion industry need a push! Thank goodness, then, for Esthetica – now in its fourth year at London Fashion Week.

Sponsored by Monsoon, this showcase of ethical design talents started out as a small initiative designed to shake up things at fashion week and get industry folks thinking about their ethical commitments. Going from strength to strength with each season, the trade exhibition has now grown to house 36 fair-trade and environmentally responsible designers working in ready-to-wear, jewellery and accessories.

Favourites of mine include Lu Flux, Ada Zanditon and, of course The Environmental Justice Foundation (who have featured in Uplift rather a lot for their fab designer tees) but this year I was able to add a few new favourites to my list! I’ll be blogging about them soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

Estethica is always a joy to peruse at fashion week; It’s inspirational and encouraging to see how different creatives are tackling the problems that lie within the process of garment creation. As you can see from the diagram below (by Burak Cakmak of Gucci Group and www.made-by.org) there are plenty of places to slip up! But it’s great to see designers take up the challenge and work at making fashion fairer for all. Let’s push things forward!

By: Sarah Barnes, 22.09.2010 | Comments (0)
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Discussing ‘The New Feminism’ at Pages of Hackney this Thursday

Just a quick note to say that this Thursday (the 23rd) Pages of Hackney will be hosting two fabulous feminist authors, Catherine Redfern and Kat Banyard, to discuss ‘The New Feminism’. Touching on issues covered within their books (Reclaiming The F Word and The Equality Illusion, respectively) the duo will assert that feminism is alive and well, and as vital today as it ever was.

Entrance is just £3, but these events tend to be well-attended, so RSVP to David at info@pagesofhackney.co.uk to ensure your place. The event begins at 7 – all details here!

By: Sarah Barnes, 21.09.2010 | Comments (0)
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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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Run for Rights!

If you want to improve your fitness whilst doing your bit to promote women’s rights, then One World Action have got the perfect challenge for you! As part of their More Women More Power campaign, One World Action are inviting female fitness fanatics to run, jog or walk the Women’s 5K challenge in Hyde Park this Sunday 5th of September.

Participants will join the More Women More Power campaigners and Women’s Rights Champion Heidi Alexander MP on a walk (or run!) of ’solidarity with our sisters around the world who are fighting to be heard’. It should prove to be a fun and sociable opportunity for supporters and campaigners to meet, and raise the profile of international women’s rights.

This week is your last chance to sign-up to participate, so get a move on! You can register your interest here and the More Women More Power team will be in touch.

By: Sarah Barnes, 17.08.2010 | Comments (1)
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Have Your Cake and Eat It This Saturday!

I’ve just heard word of yet another fabulous fund-raiser for Ladyfest Ten!

Have Your Cake And Eat It is the love-child of two of London’s top creative organisations, Diy Womp and Storm in a Teacup, so a good time is practically guaranteed! Taking place this Saturday at East London’s George Tavern, the event is yet another in a fantastic string of shindigs that raise funds for the very good cause that is Ladyfest Ten.

Personally, I’m already sold on the cute Russian Doll flyer, but if you need any more persuading to attend then here’s what to expect:

A bargain at £5 on the door, the event kicks off with some genteel art appreciation at 6, with bands taking to the stage from 8. Need to know more? Click here!

By: Sarah Barnes, 16.08.2010 | Comments (0)
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