Ten Thousand Things: Multicultural Webfinds
“Ten Thousand Things” is a Buddhist expression representing the dynamic interconnection and simultaneous unity and diversity of everything in the universe.

posted: March 12; by Jean, Kyoto Journal

On February 18, 2008, Yoko Ono turned 75. An icon in the global peace movement, the artist has not slowed her her decades-old campaigns against wars and for peace. She tirelessly appears in many venues worldwide, and posts regularly at her IMAGINE PEACE website, imbued with Ono’s glamourous and rarified aura. 

According to New York based curator Shinya Watanabe, Ono’s “Peace Art” aims at “perfect and absolute peace,” completely different than any other artist’s he has known. 

Watanabe chose Ono’s 1966 “White Chess Set” for the centerpiece of his recent exhibition, “Into the Atomic Sunshine: Post-War Art under Japanese Peace Constitution Article 9,” that ran in January and February 2008 at the Puffin Room Gallery, an alternative art space, in the SoHo area of New York City. All of the chess pieces are in white, so as the players get further into the game, it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish whose pieces are whose. The idea of “us” and “them” is erased. The twenty-something curator said that Yoko Ono was the first artist to “invert the notion of chess, to make it a metaphor for peace, rather than a game of conflict. ” Her conceptual artwork is better known as “Play It By Trust,” renamed for a 1987 tribute version created for the 75th birthday of composer John Cage.

Photo: Yuka Takamatsu

Watanabe suggests that the roots of Ono’s preoccupation with peace stem from her childhood: “Until the Second World War, she was transnational, spending half of her childhood in the United States (San Francisco and New York City), because of her family’s business. When the Great Tokyo Air Raid took place, Ono was forced to evacuate from Tokyo to the countryside, at the age of twelve. Having grown up both in Japan and the U.S., and having received both Buddhist and Christian educations, she was able to acquire multiple worldview, which also appears in this artwork.”

Watanabe also thinks that John Lennon’s message on peace came from Yoko’s influence. “My understanding is that John Lennon became a media advocate for Yoko, to broadcast her message of peace.”

Ono discusses her artistic motivation, including wanting to transcend the commoditization of art and avoid the repetition of forms and concepts, in this EGG interview. She also explains some background on her “Wish Tree” project that would resonate with anyone who lives in Japan, where people have been tying prayers to trees for centuries.

In this video from a 2006 “Japan and Peace” event at The City of London Festival, Yoko Ono makes a paper crane (orizu) for Makoto Fujimura, another Japanese-born, transnational artist who infuses the ideals of peace, universalism, empathic creativity, and generative transformation into his work.