The film is more like a collection of home video-like snapshots of Lennon and Ono holding hands, walking down New York, shouting anti war slogans, brandishing placards that scream ‘War is over — if you want it’. Ono wore her hair longer then. One can get peek into the couple’s private moments, too — Lennon and Ono laughing, sitting on carousels, scenes showing how familiar they are with each other’s bodies, them beaming at their baby, Sean, the family having breakfast and waving spoons to the cameras. The song playing in the background goes something like this: I didn’t know it was possible to be this happy, that it would be this simple.
Ono, the Lennon’s second wife (the first was Cynthia) turns 79 this February. She was in Delhi last week to promote her exhibition titled Our Beautiful Daughters. A Japanese conceptual artist and peace activist, Ono is known more for her avant-garde art more than her music. And if you ask around, she is known as the not-very-nice lady who broke up the Beatles.
Ono’s performance here was all about her gyrating with the mike and a lot wailing, screaming, whimpering, moaning, and emitting an impressive array of hysterical throat clearings. The cacophony even masked the sounds of the supporting sitar.
And the lyrics? There were some, like, “Follow your heart... (wailing)...Respect your intuition... (howling)... Have courage (plentiful gasping).
After her performance, Ono briefly spoke to the audience, and admitted how she knows people hated her. Dressed in a black suit, black glasses and a black fedora, Ono said, “People thought I broke up the Beatles. There was this big amount of hate coming from people and I turned this heavy energy to love.” Now, she added, “she’s feeling pretty good.”
What is most disturbing through the interaction is the applause that follows every inane sound byte. Anything Ono says becomes a clap-inviting war cry for the audience, brimming as it is with arty types and masquerading peaceniks. When she says, “Woman power is like man power”, pockets of American and Japanese students say, “Woo hoo!” Even Ono’s convulsing performance was less jarring.
The questions that followed from the audience were rather jejune and uninformed. Someone asked, “Does John Lennon still live in your heart and soul?” Ono didn’t answer for a while. After some goading, Ono murmured something that could have been a ‘yes’. Then, singer Zila Khan asks her to sing two lines of Imagine. “Please, please,” begged Khan. Ono replies by saying she wasn’t there to showcase her singing talent. Ono said she’s rather talk about her art. Perhaps, if you asked her about her more famous but no less bizarre act, Cut Piece (first performed in 1964), where she sits on stage and invites the audience to snip off any part of her clothing and take it with them, she might have obliged.
Ono then went on to respond to questions about how the world is changing. She suggests we all “send a message to all the trees in the world that we want peace”. The mumbo jumbo goes on while so-called feminists continue to hoot and cheer. It is only when Ono throws in the bit about how the world portrays women as “soft pretty creatures who sing pretty songs” and that, in a way, she’s out to challenge that notion, does her banshee act make any sense.
Ono has only platitudes to offer. She speaks about how “we’re the ones who bring the baby out and create the human race” and how women “have the power to bring the human race into reality”. By then, the applause is a pattern. The question still lingers: Are just established platitudes enough to turn something into a ‘show’? What is the fuss about?
In spite of everything, one can be sure that Ono’s trip has been worthwhile. In terms of hype, she’s made a killing.
Yoko Ono’s exhibition, Our Beautiful Daughters, is on till March 10 at the Vadehra art gallery in New Delhi.