Photo: Henie Onstad Archive
Yoko Ono's visit to Høvikodden in 1990 caused quite a stir.
On Saturday August 25th, 1990, in relation to the opening of her exhibition Insound/Instructure, Yoko Ono performed one of her poems. Ono wanted to demonstrate how she flies, because "everybody has at one point or another dreamt of flying". And what we dream of, said Ono, we get.
The poem Fly was written by Ono in the summer of 1963. It says one word: fly.
During her performance, Ono used no mechanical devices. Still, she somehow was able to convey the sensation of flying.
As a musician, poet, artist and filmmaker, Ono has created a remarkable career. As part of the 1960’s conceptual and radical art movement Fluxus, Ono took a clear stand using words and objects as her weapons, tools which are both powerful and dangerous in the certainty that they can be used to obtain anything. Both for one self and the world, but also in relations between humans.
In the exhibition room at Henie Onstad, Fly was displayed as an invitation alongside a staircase where one could climb up and transfer a wish over to the world of possibilities.
"Yoko Ono is on her way to Norway with one of the strangest exhibitions this country has ever seen. When the exhibition opens at Høvikodden on Saturday, one can expect bronze casts of John Lennon’s glasses, apples, condoms and birth control pills."
The exhibition Insound/Instructure embraced all of Yoko Ono’s artistic platforms, as filmmaker, a poet and a conceptual artist. Her visit did not go unnoticed. Dagbladet reported that "Yoko Ono, who is a very youthful 57 year old, has come here herself as she is a very important part of her own exhibition. This was convincingly demonstrated yesterday when she held a press conference to a large body of the press, causing a commotion that hardly any royal would be able to conjure up".
During the press conference she highlighted the importance of art in the lives of human beings: - It is a way to communicate, heighten relations. The world has turned small and we belong and depend on one another. Art is a common language, it creates vibrations and contributes to our ability to experience one another.
Yoko Ono came to Norway in due time, almost a week before the opening to prepare the exhibition together with conservator Ina Blom, as well as her personal artistic facilitator John Hendricks. "I have never seen a museum like this. Most of the museums that I have visited are very closed off. But here you have this wonderful nature that becomes part of the museum," Yoko Ono told NTB.
Wearing a light blue blazer, blue jeans and her characteristically large sunglasses, she explored the premises surrounding Henie Onstad. In regards to the exhibition title, she explained: "There are many sounds in the world but most of them we cannot hear. In total silence you can hear your own heartbeat. It is the internal sounds that fascinate me."
At Høvikodden she unveiled her work Bastet for the very first time. It is made up of 99 blue Egyptian cat figurines with fluorescent yellow eyes.
"Yoko Ono is here with 99 cats."
Simultaneously with the exhibition and Ono’s visit to Norway, a poetry festival was being arranged. The Japanese artist participated alongside Norwegian poets. This was where she performed Fly.
Harald Flor wrote for Dagbladet: "The play - or "the event" as the Fluxus-artists preferred to the more ambitious "performance" - was not very impressive as far as physical actions were concerned. It was quite a small jump from a tiny stepladder. But Yoko did convey her wish to fly, which was more important than the demonstration itself. And in her creative credo it says: Keep wishing while you participate."
"Captivating poetry but questionable Yoko Ono art at Høvik," Klassekampen wrote on Tuesday August 28th,1990. "But it becomes almost an act of a dilettante to go from such a captivating lecture to an artist who does nothing but play." Skjalg Bye elaborated: "Yoko Ono’s art consists of play, a form of play that once might have been viable. But in our time we need more than to see a chessboard with only white pieces, broken tea cups - for the audience to glue back together - to jump off a stool, and to shake hands through an unpainted canvas. The most sensational thing is that the Norwegian intellectual elite shows up in flock to behold and participate in the Yoko Ono "kindergarten for grown-ups."
Words: Martine Hoff Jensen & Ana María Bresciani