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Yoko, do you have any tips for young aspiring artists who are just starting out?
I want you to know, you are an artist. You have within you a creative person. That’s what an artist is. Artists understand that and bring out the truth in themselves. Some people write me in letters and say: “Yoko, I don’t have any money, how can I change the world?” Well, you change the world by being yourself. The fact that you are who you are is so important for us.
I like the color pink for men. I saw a photo of John wearing pink suits, going or coming back from their Japan tour, and thought it was very becoming on him. Also, it’s a color that people usually associate with women, without knowing how good a guy can look in it.
Hi, Yoko! What do you have planned for Meltdown? I’m very excited. I was in Meltdown before, invited by Patti Smith, but that’s very different from when you have to arrange things yourself. And I’m a good arranger – according to me. I would like to make it something refreshing, not about pursuing big names, more about a concept. A strong corner on women, feminism and the plight of women. I think all women are icons of feminism and we have responsibility for ourselves. But I’m happy to give one or two nights where I ask men to say something about themselves.
You’re 80 next year – how will you celebrate? I’m celebrating every day, in a way. It’s not very easy to be my age, but I’m not very concerned about age. After sexism and racism, which I fought, now there’s ageism – something more to fight about. I don’t do very much exercise, but I do like to walk. Food-wise, sometimes I’m very good and sometimes I’m very naughty – chocolate is what I like. Don’t be discouraged by society saying, “Oh, you’re going to be 40; that’s too bad.” We all carry our own age. I will put my feet up when I’m in a coffin, but until then I will do my best to have a full life.
Yoko Ono is a woman of few words and many ideas, a groundbreaking and under appreciated pop culture icon, and she seems to find new ways to make her music and outsider art relevant and inspirational decade after decade. For the past 10 years, Ono, now 79, has been meticulously reinventing select songs from her vast catalog for 21st-century dance floors, working with contemporary producers and artists (such as Basement Jaxx, Bimbo Jones, and Roberto Rodriguez) and bringing even more LGBT fans into her camp.
Her new album, ONOMIX, offers 30 of her most ambitious contemporary remixes, including the gay favorite “Everyman/Everywoman,” a reworking of “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him,” which first appeared on her Double Fantasy album with late husband John Lennon. The new version offers lyrics supporting same-sex relationships and marriage equality, making it a fitting track to listen to on Election Day, when four states are voting on exactly that.
Today marks the International Day of Peace. To celebrate, activist, artist, lover, and legend Yoko Ono has taken over Time Square, one of the most trafficked intersections in New York City to spread her message of world peace and nonviolent action. Ono’s films entitled “Imagine Peace” will display this exact message in 24 difference languages. Produced in conjunction with Art Production Fund and Times Square Alliance, they will show half-past every hour on three television screens—the largest measuring 15,000 square feet—throughout the day. The ambitious project is an extension of Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, dedicated to John Lennon, which encourages the public to make a wish for a better world. To find out more about her installation we spoke with Ono, who has mobilized peace efforts through music, performance, installations, and “instructions” for decades.
Yoko Ono has an exquisite aptitude for noticing things.
The first time I saw her was on Mercer Street one evening as the light started to lean over the city. Strolling from my office, I saw a small figure in black hat and long coat walking toward me. I didn’t realize it was her until we stood only a few strides away, but as we passed she looked up and smiled warmly right at me.
That Ono met and held my gaze was all the more unusual in Manhattan, where it’s often considered rude. But she seemed utterly calm in that moment on the sidewalk, like a silent watcher eager to grab the smallest sliver of connection with another as she passed.
The same quality is apparent in her new book, An Invisible Flower, out now by Chimera Library. Ono illustrated this elegant tome in 1952, when she was 19 years old, but this is the first time it has been published. Sean Lennon found the pages of pastel chalk drawings and hand-written text it in a closet one day at home and finally prevailed upon his mum to allow its dissemination.
It’s all inspiration. One of the reasons that I get so many incredible inspirations is because I keep my head empty without crowding it with, I don’t know, quotations of Shakespeare. I like to forget everything, just have it empty, and a lot of incredible information comes in.