Yoko Ono: Imagine Peace

Last week, my husband and I drove down to Lewisburg to see Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace exhibit.  I have to say that we were hoping the exhibit would be a bit bigger, but it was still great.  My photos from the trip are below.

Captions are below their respective photos.  To see a larger image of any of these — which I recommend — just click on the picture.

This is basically the first thing you’d see when you go into the exhibit, on the wall opposite the entrance.

This is an explanation of the Imagine Peace (Maps) piece.  If you can’t read it, it says:

“In this work, Imagine Peace (Maps), Ono transforms the exhibition space into the antithesis of the War Room — the Peace Room.  Instead of generals positioning artillery, identifying targets, and tracking the enemy, gallery visitors are prompted to express their wishes for peace, designating geographic locations to which they have a special affinity with the stamped text, “Imagine Peace,” becoming as much a prayer as a work of conceptual art.”

Clearly, these are some of the maps.

The stamps.  For some reason, this is one of my favorite pictures.

My stamp.  (I didn’t read that the stamp was supposed to go somewhere that I have a special affinity to before I put mine on.  Oops.  I’ve never been good with instructions.  I just wanted it to go in a spot that wasn’t already totally crowded.  Haha.)

A program from a previous art show.

Love is all you need.

(Sorry there’s a flash on it, but the other picture I took with no flash ended up a little blurry so I decided that this was still the better one.  Anyway, it’s only on Paul.  😛  Oh, and can someone please tell me what the hell is going on with Ringo’s hair?)

So the first part of the exhibit was Imagine Peace, which is one of Yoko’s newer works.  The other part was John and Yoko’s Year of Peace.  The Beatles photograph was in that part.  These photo murals were all along the top of the perimeter of this part of the exhibit — photos of the various War Is Over! (If You Want It) billboards that they put up in major cities on 6 continents and in the appropriate local languages.

I have to say that I love the War Is Over! (If You Want It) campaign.  In fact, it’s probably my favorite John and Yoko peace-related project.  It’s such a simple message, and though you may laugh, I really do believe it to be true — so long as you understand the “you” as both a singular and plural.  Also, John and Yoko said numerous times during the Bed Ins that peace starts with you, and you first have to create peace in your heart to create peace anywhere else.  I’m inclined to agree.

Quite simply, I just found this shirt to be fucking HILARIOUS.

And, big finale of photos actually from the exhibit, this is Play It By Trust — one of Yoko’s most famous works.

I wish that I had also taken a photograph of the description of this piece, but the basic gist is that the all-white chess set renders combat between opponents impossible.  This is the garden version of the piece (there are many Play It By Trust’s), and visitors were allowed to play.  Which, of course, we did.

Around the room, you can see framed War is Over! posters.  And on the back wall is a film — I think it was about 30-45 minutes long — documenting the bed-ins.

The film was pretty cool — it was, however, fairly raw footage and so it didn’t include things like captions explaining who certain people visiting John and Yoko were.  The impression I got from the man on the screen in this picture is that he was someone from the Canadian government, who found himself to be rather important.  He was treating John and Yoko with great contempt, and particularly taking issue with their statement that they were speaking for humanity in general.  He felt this was offensive, and implying that all people thought alike (apparently he didn’t not want to be associated in any sense whatsoever with those opposing war) and made his point — I kid you not — in this way: “It’s like how some people say that all Orientals look alike.  (Brief look of recognition on his face that um, perhaps he shouldn’t have said that.  Then, to Yoko:) But I . . . I don’t think that you all look alike!  I think that you look different from all other Orientals!”  I’m sure that Yoko appreciated that, and that the guy really succeeding in changing their minds.

This was something that amazed but didn’t particularly surprise me as I watched the film: the amount of people who were just chomping at the bit to tell John and Yoko how very wrong they were, rather than a) join them b) accept what they were doing as a piece of performance art (which in part it certainly was) or c) get over themselves.  There was no shortage of journalists and others who were just dying to tell them how they were being naive, that their actions were foolish and they needed to shut the hell up.  Even Yoko admits now that she and John were very idealistic and naive in this period (which I think is part of why it’s so powerful), but that admission doesn’t answer a big question: why was there such vitriol directed at such a simple message about peace?  Was it who was doing the delivering — a zany rockstar and his weird artist wife who preposterously acted like she was all equal to him — or was the message itself really so threatening?  I don’t know, but I do know that John and Yoko were accomplishing their most basic goal: to get peace on the front pages of the newspapers rather than war, and to get people talking.

A few other things at the exhibit that I didn’t get pictures of: a giant vinyl version of the declaration of Nutopia (being aware of its existence, I am in fact a citizen of Nutopia, as now are you!) complete with a photograph of John and Yoko’s press conference and holding up the Nutopian flag.  There were some lithographs from Lennon’s Bag One series, and — this is the one I regret not photographing most of all — I giant, soft white suitcase emblazoned with the words “Bag One” and signed by Lennon.  There was also photo documentation of the Imagine Peace Tower.

Below are some photos of souvenirs from the exhibit . . .

The program card.

Imagine Peace buttons!

This postcard was kind of hard to get a good picture of because it’s so shiny.  But that’s not a flash on there, it’s Yoko’s flashlight.  The card goes with an exhibit that I could not photograph, because it was a video exhibit.

This is the back of the card.  You can probably read it if you click to see the full size.  In the video, there was an image of Yoko Ono blinking a flashlight at the camera — one blink, then two blinks, then three blinks, repeatedly — and reading out the text on the back of the postcard.  It says:


Send the ONOCHORD message:


by repeatedly blinking the light
in the frequencies and durations
required for the message:

from ships
from the tops of mountains
from buildings
using whole buildings
in the town square
from the sky
and to the sky.

Keep sending the message
to the end of the year
and beyond.
Keep sending the message
everywhere on the earth
and to the universe.
Keep sending.

For individuals:
send the message by hand
or using flashlights
or with lighters.

The message I LOVE YOU in ONOCHORD is:

I           i
LOVE    ii
YOU      iii

I love you!

yoko ono 2008

These miniature flashlights were lefts as souvenirs for visitors to use to send the ONOCHORD message.  It’s easy to send the message with them, because the light only turns on when the black part is pressed in, and only stays pushed down if you physically hold it there.

And lastly, the message is also displayed on these postcards.  On the back, it says “write your wishes here” and is pre-addressed to the Imagine Peace Tower.  I took three cards, so that both my husband and I could write a wish and then we’d have one to keep.  But I’m thinking now that we might send in our wishes on one postcard.  As Yoko once wrote — and John and Yoko adamantly lived by — “a dream you dream alone is only a dream; a dream you dream together is reality” (this quote appeared on our wedding programs).

You can send your own wishes to the Imagine Peace Tower.

That is all.  You can see a few professional photos of the exhibit here.  (Oh, and someone buy me the catalogue?  Preferably signed, but not necessarily!  Kthxbye.)  I hope you enjoyed!

0 thoughts on “Yoko Ono: Imagine Peace

  1. fourthwave

    That looks like an amazing exhibit. I remember going to a huge Yoko Ono retrospective a few years back and finding myself very moved and impressed — even though I’d seen her work many times before in books, it’s always more profound in the space of the museum or gallery.

  2. Anna

    “There was no shortage of journalists and others who were just dying to tell them how they were being naive, that their actions were foolish and they needed to shut the hell up. ”




    I can’t tell you how often I get this reaction. The first time I was robbed (I worked graveyards at a gas station in a “bad” neighbourhood of town) I was so shaken up, and people in my life were happy because, damn it, maybe now I’d stop being so “naive” as to believe in people. Recently I was kicked out of a political rally for change because I wanted to hold up a sign saying “Make Poverty History” and this “wasn’t on message” and people I know were happy because maybe I’d stop thinking that getting involved was going to make a difference.

    How does it harm them if I believe in people? How does it scare them if I spent my evenings writing letters to editors and volunteering for causes? Why do they always need to respond by dismissing me, and then laughing when I get hurt?

    One of my lovers broke up with me because she considered my activism to be a slight against her – I was apparently saying she was bad just by going to protests or having opinions.

    I’ll never understand.

  3. judith light

    “They” vested interests in the status quo usually power, money and/or ownership based, always attack the peace message… have you forgotten that every prophet from Moses to Jesus to Buddha to Mohammad to the latest Baha’u’llah in Persia (Iran)… where Baha’i s are languishing in prison as we speak for believing and teaching a message of love, unity and peace.
    We do however believe that Peace is Inevitable and will not come politically but through a spiritual, of the people, change/evolution. Thank you and God Bless for all your effort and enthusiasm for that cause. Unfortunately we also believe “the system” (the present material money based structure) will, and has to, collapse first .. and you don’t have to look far to see that happening – very fast. Love and peace Judith Light.

  4. Pingback: Yoko Ono: A Feminist Analysis (Addendum: Just Like Starting Over) : The Curvature

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