TO THE WESLEYAN PEOPLE
Yoko Ono
23 Jan 1966

 

To the Wesleyan People (who attended the meeting.)
-a footnote to my lecture of January 13th, 1966

When a violinist plays, which is incidental: the arm movement or the bow sound?

Try arm movement only.

If my music seems to require physical silence, that is because it requires concentration to yourself – and this requires inner silence which may lead to outer silence as well.

I think of my music, more as practice (gyo) than music.

The only sound that exists to me is the sound of the mind. My works are only to induce music of the mind in people.

It is not possible to control a mind-time with a stopwatch or a metronome. In the mind-world, things spread out and go beyond time.

There is a wind that never dies.

*************

My paintings, which are all instruction paintings (and meant for others to do), came after collage & assemblage (1915) and happening (1905) came into the art world. Considering the nature of my painting, and any of the above three words or a new word can be used instead of the word, painting. But I like the old word painting because it immediately connects with “wall painting” painting, and it is nice and funny.

Among my instruction paintings, my interest is mainly in “painting to construct in your head”. In your head, for instance, it is possible for a straight line to exist-not as a segment of a curve but as a straight line. Also, a line can be straight, curved and something else at the same time. A dot can exist as a 1,2,3,4,5,6, dimensional object all at the same time or at various times in different combinations as you wish to perceive. The movement of the molecule can be continuum and discontinuum at the same time. It can be with colour and/or without. There is no visual object that does not exist in comparison to or simultaneously with other objects, but these characteristics can be eliminated if you wish. A sunset can go on for days. You can eat up all the clouds in the sky. You can assemble a painting with a person in the North Pole over a phone, like playing chess. This painting method derives from as far back as the time of the Second World War when we had no food to eat, and my brother and I exchanged menus in the air.
There may be a dream that two dream together, but there is no chair that two see together.

***********

I think it is possible to see a chair as it is. But when you burn the chair, you suddenly realize that the chair in your head did not burn or disappear.

The world of construction seems to be the most tangible, and therefore final. This made me nervous. I started to wonder if it were really so.

Isn’t a construction a beginning of a thing like a seed? Isn’t it a segment of a larger totality, like an elephant’s tail? Isn’t it something just about to emerge-not quite structured… like an unfinished church with a sky ceiling? Therefore, the following works:

A venus made of plastic, except that her head is to be imagined.

A paper ball and a marble book, except that the final version is the fusion of these two objects which come into existence only in your head.

A marble sphere (actually existing) which, in your head, gradually becomes a sharp come by the time it is extended to the far end of the room.

A garden covered with a thick marble instead of snow-but like snow, which is to be appreciated only when you uncover the marble coating.

One thousand needles: imagine threading them with a straight thread.

*********

I would like to see the sky machine on every corner of the street instead of the coke machine. We need more skies than coke.

*******

Dance was once the way people communicated with God and godliness in people. Since when did dance become a pastel-faced exhibitionism of dancers on the spotlighted stage? Can you not communicate if it is totally dark?

If people make it a habit to draw a somersault on every other street as they commute to their office, take off their pants before they fight, shake hands with strangers whenever they feel like it, give flowers or part of their clothing on streets, subways, elevator, toilet, etc., and if politicians go through a tea house door (lowered, so people must bend very low to get through) before they discuss anything and spend a day watching the fountain water dance at the nearest park, the world business may slow down a little but we may have peace.
To me this is dance.

*****

All my works in the other fields have an “Event bent” so to speak. People ask me why I call some works Event and others not. They also ask me why I do not call my Events, Happenings.

Event, to me, is not an assimilation of all the other arts as Happening seems to be, but an extrication from the various sensory perceptions. It is not “a get togetherness” as most happenings are, but a dealing with oneself. Also, it has no script as happenings do, though it has something that starts moving – the closest word for it may be a “wish” or “hope”.

****

At a small dinner party next week, we suddenly discovered that out poet friend whom we admire very much was colour blind. Barbara Moore said, “That explains about his work. Usually people’s eyes are blocked by colour and they can’t see
the thing.”

After unblocking one’s mind, by dispensing with visual, auditory, and kinetic perceptions, what will come of us? Would there be anything? I wonder. And my events are mostly spent in wonderment.

In Kyoto, at the Nanzenji Temples the High Monk was kind to let me use one of the temples and the gardens for my Event. It is a temple with great history, and it was an unheard of honour for the Monk to give permission for such a use,
especially, to a woman. The Event took place from evening till dawn. About fifty people came with the knowledge that it will last till dawn. The instruction was to watch the sky and to “touch”. Some of them were just fast asleep until dawn. Some sat in the garden, some on the wide corridor, which is like a verandah. It was a beautiful full moon night, and the moon was so bright, that the mountains and the trees, which usually looked black under the moonlight, began to show their green. People talked about moonburn, moonbath, and about touching the sky. Two people, I noticed, were whispering all about their life story to each other. Once in a while, a restless person would come to me and ask if I was alright. I thought that was very amusing, because it was a very warm and peaceful July night, and there was no reason why I should not be alright. Probably he was starting to feel something happening to him, something that he did not yet know how to come with, the only way out for him was to come to me and ask if I was alright. I was a little nervous about people making cigarette holes on the national treasure floors and tatami, from being high on the moonlight, since most of the people were young modern Japanese, and some French and Americans. But nothing like that happened. When the morning breeze started to come in, people quietly woke up their friends and we took a bath, three at a time in a bath especially prepared for us at that hour of the day. The temple bath is made of high stone, and it is very warm. After the bath, we had miso soup and onigirl (rice sandwich). Without my saying anything about it, people silently swept the room and mopped the corridor before leaving. I did not know most of them, as they were mostly Kyoto people, and they left without giving their names. I wonder who they were.

At another time, also in Kyoto, before the Nanzenji Event, I had a concert at Yamaichi Hall. It was called “The Strip-tease Show” (it was stripping of the mind.) When I met the High Monk the next day, he seemed a bit dissatisfied.

“I went to see your concert,” he said.
“Thank you, did you like it?”

“Well, why did you have those three chairs on the stage and call it strip-tease by three?”
“If it I a chair or stone or woman, it is the same thing, my Monk.”
“Where is he music?”
“The music is in the mind, my Monk.”
“But that is the same with what we are doing, aren’t you an avant-garde composer?”
“That is a label which was out by others for convenience.”
“For instance, does Toshiro Mayuzumi create music of your kind?”
“I can only speak for myself.”
“Do you have many followers?”
“No, but I know of two men who know what I am doing. I am very thankful for that.”

Though he is a High Monk he is extremely young, he may be younger than myself.
I wonder what the Monk is doing now.

***

Another Event that was memorable for me was “Fly”, at Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo. People were asked to come prepared to fly in their own way. I did not attend.

**

People talk about happening. They say that art is headed towards that direction, that happening is assimilating the arts. I don’t believe in collectivism of art nor in having only one direction in anything. I think it is nice to return to having many different arts, including happening, just as having many flowers. In fact, we could have more arts “smell”, “weight”, “taste”, “cry”, “anger” (competition of anger, that sort of thing), etc. People might say, that we never experience things separately , they are always in fusion, and tat is why “the happening”, which is a fusion of all sensory perceptions. Yes I agree, but if tat is so, it is all the more reason and challenge to create a sensory experience isolated from other sensory experiences, which is something rare in daily life Art Is no merely a duplication of life. To assimilate art in life, is different from art duplicating life.
But returning to having various divisions of art, does not mean, for instance, that one must use only sounds as means to create music. One may give instructions to watch the fire for 10 days in order to create a vision in ones mind.

*

The mind is omnipresent, events in life never happen alone and the history is forever increasing its volume. The natural state of life and mind is complexity. At this point, what art can offer (if it can at all – to me it seems) is an absence of complexity, a vacuum through which you are led to a state of complete relaxation of mind. After that you may return to the complexity of life again, it may not be the same, or it may be, or you may never return, but that is your problem.

Mental richness should be worried just a physical richness. Didn’t Christ say that it was like a camel trying to pass through a needle hole, for John Cage to go to heaven? I think it is nice to abandon what you have as much as possible, as many mental possession as the physical ones, as they clutter your mind. It is nice to maintain poverty of environment, sound, thinking and belief. It is nice to keep oneself small like a grain of rice instead of expanding and make yourself dispensable like paper. See little, hear little, and think little.

The body is the Bodhi Tree
The mind like a bright mirror standing
Take care to wipe it all the time
And allow no dust to cling. – Shen-hsiu

There never was a Bodhi Tree
Nor bright mirror standing
Fundamentally, not one things exists
So where is the dust to cling? – Hui-neng

Yoko Ono
23 Jan 1966

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