////IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko [Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada]

IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko [Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada]

IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko

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A “conscientious objector” during a period of societal and political crisis throughout the world, John Lennon, along with his muse and alter ego Yoko Ono, sang a message of hope and tolerance that sought the transformation of violence into peace, and hate and racism into love. Today, the work they carried out together has not lost any of its resonance. This exhibition invites you to explore all the facets of the musical, artistic and political collaboration whose works so closely reflected the spirit of their time yet still speak to us today. Although Yoko Ono’s loan of these exceptional works has allowed this look at a chapter of history to be put together, the past. Indeed, this avant-garde artist of Japanese origin associated with the Fluxus and conceptual art movements has never ceased to promote peace in her works. This exhibition will retrace the story of these two major figures, from their meeting in 1966 to their first creations promoting peace, which culminated in the May 1969 Bed-in. It will examine the legacy of such anthemic songs as 1971’s “Imagine” and “Power to the People,” or such albums as 1972’s politically engaged Some Time in New York City.

Cultural activities (free admission)

Lectures

Wednesday, April 1 at 11.30 a.m., in English
John Lennon and Yoko Ono: The Music of Love and Peace
By Craig Morrison, Ethnomusicologist, author, professor, musician
Wednesday, April 1, at 1.30 p.m., in French
Présentation de l’exposition Imagine
By Emma Lavigne, curator of contemporary art, Musée national d’art moderne/CCI, Centre Pompidou, and curator of the exhibition Imagine

Wednesday, April 8, at 6 p.m., in English
Either You’re In or You’re Out: Bed-in, Love-in, Sit-in in Montreal
By Jean-Philippe Warren, sociologist and Concordia University Research Chair on the Study of Quebec
Wednesday, April 15, at 6 p.m., in French
De la contestation à la participation
By Anithe de Carvalho, art history teacher at Saint-Laurent CEGEP

Films

Wednesday, April 1 at 3.30 p.m. and 6 p.m., in English
The U.S. vs. John Lennon
USA, David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, 2006, b&w and colour, 105 min

Wednesday, April 1 at 6.15 p.m., in English with French subtitles
Prologue
Canada, Robin Spry, 1969, 87 min

Sunday, April 5 at 1.30 p.m., in French
Yoko et John
France, Frédéric Le Clair, 2000, 90 min

Sunday, April 12 at 1.30 p.m., in English
John & Yoko: Give Peace a Song
Canada, Paul McGrath, 2005, 81 min

Wednesday, May 20 at 6 p.m., in English
I Met the Walrus
Canada, Josh Raskin, 2007, 5 min., animation

followed by
Yoko and John: The Bed-in
Canada, John Lennon and yoko ono, filmed by Nic Knowland, 1969, 74 min

Tuesday, May 26 at 3 p.m., in English
John & Yoko: Give Peace a Song
Canada, Paul McGrath, 2005, 81 min

Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m.
Two films about John & Yoko
Presented by Claude Chamberlan, founder of the Cinéma Parallèle and director of programming for the festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC), French

Happy Birthday to John
USA, Jonas Mekas, 1995, 18 min, English

followed by

Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine Album
USA, Andrew Solt, executive producer: Yoko Ono, 2000,
60 min, English

Thursday, May 28 at 3 p.m., English, with french subtitles
Prologue
Canada, Robin Spry, 1969, 87 min

Friday, May 29 at 3 p.m., in French
Wow
Canada, Claude Jutra, 1969, 94 min

Saturday, May 30 at 3 p.m., in English
The U.S. vs. John Lennon
USA, David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, 2006, b&w and colour, 105 min

The films are presented free of charge at the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion, 1379 Sherbrooke Street West. Doors open 30 minutes before the film begins.

IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko

April 2 to June 21, 2009

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion: Level 3
1380 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
Information: 514-285-2000

Floor plan here

website

Yoko in Montreal: 31 March 2009

Yoko Ono in Montreal: 31 March 2009 by you.
Yoko hangs her wish on the Wish Tree.
All wishes collected go to IMAGINE PEACE TOWER in Iceland
imaginepeace.com/wish

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Yoko visits the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada to visit her exhibition: “IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko”, March 31 2009.

Press Conference: 31 March 2009

“Imagine” … if we would just give peace … “a chance”

by Benoit LeBlanc, Courrier Laval

Les Petits chanteurs de Laval, with Yoko Ono, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. (Photo: Courtesy)
At the end of March, a joint delegation of Les Petits chanteurs de Laval and Les  Voix Boréales were privileged to sing Imagine for Yoko Ono, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, during the vernissage of the exposition Imagine: John and Yoko’s Ballad for Peace.

John Lennon’s widow made no effort to camouflage her feelings when she congratulated the young singers for their distinctive rendition of the ex-Beatle’s much-celebrated hymn to peace. “For sure, this was not the first time she heard the song under these kinds of circumstances. But it was a surprise for Yoko Ono, and she confided to us it was a return to the roots, Montreal, where her love story with John Lennon began,” related Philippe Ostiguy, artistic and musical director of the two groups of young singers.

Les Petits chanteurs de Laval and Les Voix Boréales sang by Yoko Ono’s side, in front of 1500 invited guests at the event. The exposition Imagine: John and Yoko’s Ballad for Peace, recalls the 40th anniversary of John and Yoko’s renowned Montreal bed-in of 1969, and offers a renewal of the eternal message and dream of peace on earth. Admission to the showing is free.

The Lanaudière Festival
After providing accompaniment to the choirs of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Orchestra for several years in various performances at the Lanaudière Music Festival, the young boys choir of the Petits chanteurs de Laval and their girls counterparts, (Les Voix Boréales) have received and accepted an invitation to present their own concert Sunday, July 5, on the stage of the Joliette Amphitheatre.

“We’re going to sing our own repertoire, which extends from music of the Renaissance to popular songs to major classical works. It’s a beautiful gesture of confidence (in us) from the Festival,” Mr. Ostiguy explained.

Tours and auditions
Before then, the boys go on tour in Spain from April 13 to 26, preceding the girls who’ll be on a singing tour of the North East of North America in May.

In a process of renewal and in preparation toward replenishing the roster of the choirs, both groups are now recruiting new young singers.

Children in grades 1 to 4 and girls in grades 3 and 4 of elementary school are invited to audition before the end of April. Aged 8 to 17, these young choristers are called upon to live experiences that lead toward maximum development of their musical potential.For further information and audition appointments: 514-583-6508 or www.singsing.ca

QuickTime VR – A very cool 360° panoramic view of the Montreal exhibition

Montreal1

Click on the picture above to go to the amazing 360° website at www.photojpl.com.

John and Yoko’s ballad inspired by Montreal

by Bernard Perusse, Canwest News Service, Times Colonist

piano

John Lennon didn’t have five shillings to hammer a nail into a white board at Yoko Ono’s Indica Gallery Exhibit in London in 1966, so he asked the artist if he could hammer an imaginary nail for an imaginary five shillings. By most accounts, that moment was the genesis of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most notorious relationships, both vilified and celebrated.

More than four decades after that milestone encounter, visitors to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will be able to pick up a hammer and do what the late Beatle could not. The interactive Painting to Hammer a Nail is one of 140 pieces of memorabilia on display at Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko, the Ono-endorsed exhibition that opened at the museum last week.

It was curated by Emma Lavigne and Thierry Planelle and designed and mounted by the museum under the direction of Nathalie Bondil.

“It’s a revolutionary way of doing stuff, but it goes with the idea that peace is for everybody and it isn’t something that you have to sell,” Ono, 76, said during a press conference at the museum Tuesday.

“We share peace between us — together. I think that this is the start of a beautiful age.”

Sharing and interactivity play a role in the Imagine exhibition, which allows visitors to stamp “Imagine Peace” on world maps, play a version of the Lennon classic Imagine on a replica of his iconic white piano, assisted by Disklavier software, and write a wish and hang it on a wish tree.

Among a handful of more recent Ono works, Play It By Trust consists of 15 chess boards set up for playing. The title comes from the perfectly Ono-esque decision to make all the pieces white. The new idea expands on her 1966 work White Chess Set, featuring only one board.

A replica of the earlier exhibit is also on display with some 140 recordings, drawings, books, photos, films and other visuals documenting the couple’s artistic life, peace crusades and watershed career moments.

One of the exhibition’s main themes is the Lennon-Ono bed-in, which took place at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in May 1969. Their anthemic Give Peace a Chance, featuring celebrities and well-wishers on its chorus, was recorded in their room and became the first Plastic Ono Band single.

A section in the exhibition devoted to the couple’s lighthearted peace events features the song’s handwritten lyrics, the reel-to-reel tape on which it was recorded, Lennon’s Gibson guitar adorned by drawings, and a replica of the bed from which they held court 40 years ago for both adoring and hostile members of the working press.

Ono’s memories are fixed on the support, not the mockery.

“Montreal was a place where John and I created a very important statement,” she said. “We didn’t think that it was going to be that important at the time, but it [made] the beds for our lives. Ono, noting that she and Lennon were still newlyweds when they embarked on the bed-in event, credited the city for inspiration.

“When all the journalists went home around 6 o’clock, John and I would turn around and look at the sky. It was a beautiful view. I always remember that,” she said. “But also, without your vibrations, your spirit around, Give Peace a Chance may not have been born.

Montreal show looks at Lennon’s bed-in, 40 years on

By Rita Devlin Marier, Reuters

Photo
MONTREAL – A large bed with white sheets is a central feature of a new exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “bed-in” for peace, a week-long protest against the Vietnam War.

Visitors to the Montreal exhibition, “Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko,” can lie on the oversized bed, listen to archive interviews and watch clips from the peaceful protest that Lennon and Ono conducted from their bed at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

The show, at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts, uses videos, sketches, photographs, and an omnipresent soundtrack of music and voices to examine the former Beatle’s “War is Over” campaign and his relationship with Ono.

“We’re coming up to the 40th anniversary of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s bed-in in Montreal,” museum director Nathalie Bondil told Reuters.

“And reevaluating today what they were doing, we realize that it was not only an extremely radical artistic action…but also something that’s still pertinent in Montreal today to promote that same message of peace and love that John and Yoko were promoting 40 years ago.”

Ono, in Montreal for the exhibition’s early April opening, told Canadian and international media that the message from her 1969 protest with Lennon remained relevant.

“Thank you for making such a grand statement on world peace with your museum show, at this time when it is very, very much needed,” she said, her black silhouette standing out against the exhibit’s white surroundings.

Lennon, who was shot to death in New York in 1980, took his 1969 bed-in protest to Montreal from Amsterdam after it became clear he would be denied entry to the United States.

Photo
He and Ono checked into Room 1742 at the hotel on May 26, and stayed in bed for a week. On June 1st, they recorded the single “Give Peace a Chance” from the hotel room, accompanied, among others, by members of the local Hare Krishna temple.

The exhibition, which closes on June 21, showcases works of art by Lennon and Ono as well as more recent, interactive installations on the theme of peace, and on the context behind the Vietnam-era peace protest.

“It brings us back to a time which the baby-boomers experienced with intensity. It was a wonderful era,” Yves Robichon of Montreal said as he looked at archive photos of the couple’s stay.

Jerry Gruia, another visitor, said the art works by Lennon and Ono, were a welcome addition.

“I never realized that she was a talent unto herself, that’s a surprise,” he said. “I also never realized that he was such a good artist. Some of these pieces, these sketches, are wonderful.”

Give Sheets A Chance

‘It’s time for action! Action is peace. I love you!’
So says Lennon’s ex-muse Yoko Ono, as she returns to Montreal for an exhibit honouring the ‘Peace Industry’ they started.
By Simona Rabinovitch, GlobeandMail.com

Image from “Give sheets a chance”

Yoko Ono sits on a bed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts yesterday. The interactive exhibit, entitled The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko, features 140 works of art, personal drawings, films and photos, many on loan from Ms. Ono. (Photo: Ian Barrett)

MONTREAL — Forty years ago, newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono shacked up at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel. They put on pyjamas, cleared out the furniture (the bed stayed), wrote and recorded the iconic song Give Peace a Chance, and invited a curious world into Room 1742 to witness their week-long Bed-In for Peace.

Today, locals remember the Montreal bed-in with the wonder and nostalgia of a dream – and that energy was palpable yesterday as Ms. Ono breezed into town in support of a Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibit opening tomorrow called The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko, celebrating the landmark anniversary of the bed-in, which ran from May 26 to June 2, 1969.

Wearing a black blazer and tiny sunglasses, hat perched coquettishly atop her head, the soft-spoken 76-year-old sweetly and briefly answered questions about peace, art, and, of course, Mr. Lennon for the throngs of media gathered for the event. Reviving the philosophy behind the couple’s artistic and political collaboration, the interactive exhibit comes complete with a white piano, and 140 works of art, personal drawings, films and photos – many on loan from Ms. Ono – against a soundscape of music and dialogue.

Ms. Ono talked with a girlish enthusiasm as she reflected on those days in Montreal earlier this month, on the phone from her home in New York. “The idea was to allow people to invade our space, in a way, our private space, and make it into art,” she said. “Both of us were very shy people. But we did it.

“The thing is, I’m not one of those people who, when a friend comes to my apartment, I say, ‘Look at this, isn’t this great, John gave it to me,’ ” she giggled. “But this is a very important show, it is speaking of imagining peace, so of course, I will try to accommodate.”

John and Yoko’s Montreal bed-in was actually their second; their first was in Amsterdam two months earlier. Both were part of an “international campaign for peace” that included concerts, billboards, and that famous New York Times ad that read: “War is Over! If You Want it. Happy Christmas from John and Yoko.”

Ms. Ono has carried on the couple’s life’s work with projects such as the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavik, Iceland, a massive tower of light in Mr. Lennon’s memory that she unveiled in 2007. “The awareness of peace is very, very strong around the world now,” she said. “Together, it’s making a big force. I call it a sort of peace industry. When we started doing it, there were very few people who really wanted to be active in getting world peace, and now I think 99 per cent of people in the world are thinking about it.”

Her unbridled optimism tends to land Ms. Ono in trouble with more literal-minded thinkers (a quote in the press release for the Montreal show reads, “It’s time for action! Action is peace. I love you!”), but this idealism makes the message effective and timeless. It’s also a key part of Ms. Ono’s art. “Artists are freer than politicians who are bound by red tape,” she said about art’s role in peacemaking. “We can do a lot. Also, we work not just on a conscious level, but on a subconscious level as well.”

Her own artistic career has been all about risk with purpose. Born in Japan, she was associated during the 1960s with the Fluxus movement and New York’s avant-garde scene. She’s also made her mark in photography, film and music, with the Plastic Ono Band and other projects. “I always wanted to surpass myself, I was always thinking about what’s next,” she recalled. “Going to the next level in terms of music, or performance art, or whatever … I wanted to push the horizon of what’s possible in each medium. That was my life, to take risks in my artwork all the time. And then I met John – and the two rebels met.”

Ms. Ono said Mr. Lennon helped her grow from a “lone wolf just working by myself” to understanding how to create as a team. “It’s very unusual, I think, that it happens that way,” she mused about collaborating with her husband. “We were very lucky. Actually, John was more experienced with working with a partner, like Paul [McCartney] and all that. So I had to learn that from him. ‘Partner, okay!’ ”

Although Montreal wasn’t the couple’s first bed-in destination choice (Mr. Lennon had been denied entry into the United States because of a marijuana arrest) Ms. Ono shares the public’s soft spot for that city at that moment in time. “Canada meant a lot to us hippies in those days! We had a kind of respect and feeling of romanticism towards Canada for being a country where people are more together and liberal, and the ideas are wise and progressive. Montreal, especially, means a lot to me because of all the memories I have with John. It was our honeymoon as well.”

Yoko Ono launches exhibition at MMFA

by Bernard Perusse, Montreal Gazette, photos by Pierre Obendrauf

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Yoko Ono answers questions during morning press conference in Montreal on Tuesday March 31, 2009.

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Yoko Ono signs card following morning press conference in Montreal on Tuesday March 31, 2009.

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Yoko Ono leaves morning press conference in Montreal on Tuesday March 31, 2009.

John Lennon didn’t have five shillings to hammer a nail into a white board at Yoko Ono’s Indica Gallery Exhibit in London in 1966, so he asked if the artist if he could hammer an imaginary nail for an imaginary five shillings. By most accounts, that moment was the genesis of one of rock n’ roll’s most notorious relationships, both vilified and celebrated.

More than four decades after that milestone encounter, visitors to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will be able to pick up a hammer and do what the late Beatle could not. The interactive Painting to Hammer a Nail is one of 140 pieces of memorabilia on display at Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko, the Ono-endorsed exhibition that opens at the museum Thursday.

Admission to the exhibition, which is exclusive to Montreal, will be free. “It’s a revolutionary way of doing stuff, but it goes with the idea that peace is for everybody and it isn’t something that you have to sell,” Ono, 76, said during a press conference at the museum yesterday. “We share peace between us – together. I think that this is the start of a beautiful age.”

Sharing and interactivity play a role the Imagine exhibition, which allows visitors to stamp “Imagine Peace” on world maps, play a version of the Lennon classic Imagine on a replica of his iconic white piano, assisted by Disklavier software, or write a wish and hang it on a wish tree.

Among a handful of more recent Ono works, Play It By Trust consists of 15 chess boards set up for playing. The title comes from the perfectly Ono-esque decision to make all the pieces white. The new idea expands on her 1966 work White Chess Set, featuring only one board. A replica of the earlier exhibit is also on display with some 140 recordings, drawings, books, photos, films and other visuals documenting the couple’s artistic life, peace crusades and watershed career moments,

One of the exhibition’s main themes is the Lennon-Ono bed-in, which took place at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in May 1969. Their anthemic Give Peace a Chance, featuring celebrities and well-wishers on its chorus, was recorded in their room and became the first Plastic Ono Band single.

A section in the exhibition devoted to the couple’s lighthearted peace events features the song’s handwritten lyrics, the reel-to-reel tape on which it was recorded, Lennon’s Gibson guitar, adorned by drawings, and a replica of the bed from which they held court 40 years ago for both adoring and hostile members of the working press.

Ono’s memories are fixed on the support, not the mockery. “Montreal was a place where John and I created a very important statement,” she said. “We didn’t think that it was going to be that important at the time, but it (made) the beds for our lives.

Ono, noting that she and Lennon were still newlyweds when they embarked on the bed-in event, credited the city for inspiration. “When all the journalists went home around 6 o’clock, John and I would turn around and look at the sky. It was a beautiful view. I always remember that,” she said. “But also, without your vibrations, your spirit around, Give Peace a Chance may not have been born. It was a work between John and I and our partnership with Montreal.”

Other sections of the Imagine exhibition tackle themes like Lennon and Ono’s first meeting in 1966, avant-garde works like Film No. 5 (Smile) and Two Virgins, their War Is Over! If You Want It! campaign, and the Imagine and Some Time in New York City albums.

Fascinating pieces of pop history are everywhere, like Lennon’s acerbic response to Canon S.E. Verney, who refused to allow the leaflet for Lennon and Ono’s 1968 Acorn Event to be distributed in Coventry Cathedral. In every section of the exhibition, the sounds of music, conversation, interviews and avant-garde recordings by the couple provide a soundtrack.

Even the Société de Transport de Montréal is getting in on the act: starting Monday, until June 21, a message of peace from Ono will be broadcast throughout the metro system and displayed onscreen inside metro cars.

“I think of this world as people who want peace and people who want to solve problems by violence and war,” Ono said. “And I think, by now, 99 per cent of the world is very much for world peace, very much for solving things by discussion. There are so many of us, we’re going to win.”

(Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko opens tomorrow and runs through June 21 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke St. W. Admission is free.

Lectures and films about Lennon and Ono, , also free, will be offered while the exhibition runs. For the schedule and details, go to the museum’s Web site at mmfa.qc.ca

To read Yoko Ono’s tweets,, go to http://twitter.com/yokoono)

Video here.

[email protected]

Thumbnail image for 2.jpg

Courtesy of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Denis Bernier photo.

Yoko Ono hangs a note on the Wish Tree at the opening of the Imagine exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts
in Montreal Tuesday, March 31, 2009. The show features 140 works, drawings, unpublished photographs,
videos, films and interactive material that convey Ono’s and John Lennon’s message of universal peace.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

Yoko Ono opens new Montreal exhibit on 1969 bed-in

by Nelson Wyatt, Canadian Press, The Star.com

Yoko Ono in Montreal – 31 March 2009 from Yoko Ono on Vimeo

MONTREAL – Yoko Ono says she will always remember Montreal’s skyline when she thinks about the bed-in for peace she staged with former Beatle John Lennon in a downtown hotel 40 years ago.

“We were in bed and when all the journalists went home around 6 o’clock in the evening, John and I would turn around and look at the sky through a beautiful, beautiful huge window,” she said Tuesday.

“We just had great fun looking at the sky, and I always remember that.”

Ono was back in Montreal on Tuesday to open “Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko,” an exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts which traces the couple’s life from their meeting in 1966 to the 1969 bed-in.

“Coming here is a very special thing for me,” she told a news conference. “I believe that John is here with me today because we had a great time.”

She said the trip to Montreal in 1969 – the bed-in was staged at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel from May 26 to June 2 – was like a honeymoon for her and Lennon, who split from the Beatles after he got together with her.

With its message of world peace, the bed-in was one of the iconic moments of the 1960s. It made headlines around the world and also saw the recording of “Give Peace a Chance,” which became an anthem for the antiwar movement.

The diminutive Ono said reporters who sat around – and often on – the bed with her and Lennon played a big part in making “Give Peace a Chance” happen.

“I think that without your help, your vibrations, your spirit, around us, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ would not have been born,” she told the assembled journalists. “Without your remembrances of this happening . . . it may not have been remembered by the world.

“Right now there are so many people who are trying to do bed-ins, and that would not have happened. I think it was a work between John and I and our partnership with Montreal.”

She said Lennon, who was murdered in 1980, continued working for peace after the Montreal bed-in as did she.

“I feel I’m doing it with him still.”

“Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko” runs from April 2 to June 21 and is free to the public. The show includes some 140 drawings, unpublished photos, videos, films and artwork, all amid background music by Lennon.

Visitors will also be able to play “Imagine” on a piano with a sound system, write down their wishes and tie them to Ono’s “Wish Tree,” and once a day, at an unspecified time, speak on the phone with Ono.

Emma Lavigne, the show’s curator, said Ono was very helpful in bringing the exhibit together.

“We have the three very strong elements – politics, music, art – and we really need to have those . . . to understand what the bed-in really was.”

Ono, an artist and musician who lives in New York City, said she was pleased the show is free.

“It goes with the idea that peace is for everybody and it isn’t something that you have to sell. We share peace together.”

She had a simple message for the current generation of young people concerned about wars in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq as she was about Vietnam in the ’60s.

“Be yourself, keep dancing, have fun in life and we will all love each other,” she said, before telling reporters “I love you” as she left the stage.

Give Peace Another Chance

yo-gazette

New York – Descending the subway steps to the uptown F train, an
instantly recognizable melody wafts up from below. There’s a South
American-looking busker on the platform whose motley collection of
equipment includes the pan pipes, serenading the crowd with the
instrumental Andean version of Imagine and I’m thinking: “Nah. Really?”
Followed swiftly by the certainty: Yoko will appreciate this.

“Really?” she says once we’ve sat down in a hangar-sized photo studio.
“Well, it’s not a coincidence, you know? It’s like a message.”
Meaning some numinous nod to our get-together, and the occasion.
Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko opens April 2 at the Montreal
Museum of Fine Arts, running neatly through the 40th anniversary of the
Bed-In at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

“There’s always a reason,” Ono says; or possibly, all coincidences prove
is that there are coincidences. But for the occasion, we’ll tweak that
logic to admit the otherworld: that the New York subway spirits, or some
other energy, would get involved, because even in 2009, there’s fame,
and there’s John and Yoko.

The Imagine exhibit is just the latest manifestation of Ono’s life’s
work on the legacy of John and Yoko’s life’s work. She travels
semi-regularly to Montreal to discuss Love, the Cirque du Soleil’s
Beatles show. Before we speak, she will prepare for a photo session,
trying on a selection of whimsical wide-brimmed hats and yellow or
purple-tinged sunglasses in the impossibly bright 15-foot-ceilinged
Daylight Studios overlooking the Hudson River. Straddling a chair
flashing the peace sign, she vets the photos as they are shot. We are
prepared for “hands-on,” given a pre-interview process that insisted on
full approval of any and all published photos, as well as pre-submitted
questions. This, then, may be the “Dragon Lady” of whom the ancients
speak.

As is most always the case, the mediation evaporates once you’re sitting
together. Seated at a cafeteria table, we’re left in the main alone, and
she answers, even when the conversation is borne way from celebration.
But first, celebration. Yoko remembers that 1969 week in Montreal as
“very intimate. We disappointed all the press people because they
thought that we were gonna make love in front of them or something. But
of course you know” – she giggles – “ we didn’t.”
Well, you got pretty close on that Two Virgins cover… (which showed them
both naked).

“Yes,” she smiles. And the intimacy will be captured in the MMFA.
Strikingly, John and Yoko will be heard whispering and singing to one
another from gallery to gallery as visitors take in Imagine’s massive
collection of 140 works, drawings, unpublished photographs, videos,
films, artworks and interactive materials covering the 1966-1972 period
and including some of Ono’s ’90s work. During the planning stage, the
museum dispatched two curators to Ono’s apartment in New York for
high-level discussions.
“It was so thorough and creative and original. I was very, very impressed,”
she says.

A stand-in for John’s iconic white piano, featuring a Disklavier sound
system, will allow fans to play Imagine.
“Isn’t that great?” she says. “And the bed will be there.”

Not the same bed, surely, but a replica of the one from Suite 1742.
“It’s just a very sweet and lovely memory. It was so beautiful, there
was no problem at all.” She remembers fans downstairs in the Queen
Elizabeth Hotel, and Suite 1742 crowded with recording technicians and
media (including The Gazette’s own Dave Bist) bang their way into
history on guitars and doorjambs to record Give Peace a Chance. “Very
nice people. They made it very easy for us. Those people were always
there. If they’re not nice people, we’d feel it, you know?

“It was a very, very intense time in history. Don’t you think? We were
very lucky. We were doing something out of love, and it was a very
peaceful environment and atmosphere. It was just an exchange of love
with the people near us, around us, and the world.”

Of course, they were exchanging The Love because of The Hate, and the
not-nice people in the world.

“Even in those days, the generation before us were very upset with what
we were doing. But the young ones understood.”

Some may see Ono as a relentless happy-talker, which would conveniently
leave out the complete absence of self-pity. Don’t forget – during that
period, Lennon would spend four years fighting the U.S. government for
his green card. Ono had already lost her daughter Kyoko in a parental
kidnapping following a custody case. They were the uberfamous couple
flashing peace signs, groovily inspiring the counterculti and, in
official channels, being … “treated like trash,” she finishes the
sentence. “I do want to mention one thing, the fact that (John) was a
very courageous man. Even though he knew there was tremendous objection
and pressure from higher up, he didn’t want to quit. He was always
truthful about it.”

“We were very upset about things each time, but it didn’t stick to us.”
She describes the childlike world of instantaneous free exchange that is
the most public face of their marriage.

“Once we met, we were just like one person. Before I met John … there
were so many ideas that I couldn’t realize all of them. When I met John,
we were both that kind of people. So can you imagine the speed of the
things coming out? We didn’t even have to finish a sentence.”
One sentence they finished, in their own write, will surely be
represented in the exhibit. WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It), the 1969
billboardpaper ad blitz, was that rarest of occasions when idea and
wealth met advertising not to sell product, but concept. Which, pace
John, is a theory/conviction running through Yoko Ono’s work up to that
time (see sidebar on her career).

“It’s a bit tacky to sell people, you know, ‘peace’,” she says. “In our
case, we were so much in a hurry, we just did it.”
Once again, we enjoy interesting times. Obama’s election was “kind of
like we won a war or something. I believe in grassroots movements,
definitely, and the people’s power. And I’m not that much into
institutional politics, you know. But still – once they’re there, it’s
much better that we get some support and patience and love. But we have
to have belief that we can do it, too, you know.”

“Imagining – it’s like a meditative thing. When you’re imagining peace,
you can’t kill someone. By imagining peace, you are peace.” We speak
briefly about the two of them discussing Imagine, the song, before it
was completed. There is more talk of how each person is “like a
superpower” and “an oasis. We’re like 90-per-cent water, each of us, so
before we fight with each other, the water is already connecting.”
All of which is as on-message as a peace sign, but certainly there is
another side. A private sense that “I was laying my whole self to the
world, dedicating myself to the world. And John … lived … and died from
that.”

And so there is risk involved.
“Well I didn’t think about the risk. Every risk is a blessing.”
And some of this must be painful? To revisit?
“No. Because we were sitting together, and we’re still sitting together.
And now we are returning to Montreal. We’re not visiting, we’re
returning. And so I know that John is very happy. Our memories were so
good. So we’re just sort of jumping with excitement!”
“Especially with Montreal, I know we are going back together.”
Back to the subway, where the busker has been called to his next gig.

Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko runs from April 2 to June 21
at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Free admission.

IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts celebrates Bed-In anniversary

April 2 to June 21, 2009

Following Warhol Live, this spring the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
will continue in a musical vein by celebrating the fortieth anniversary of
John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous 1969 Bed-in in Montreal with an
exhibition designed to renew their still-topical peace message.

Admission to the exhibition will be free in order to enable the widest
possible public to understand, be moved by and perpetuate this message
today.

A supremely committed artist, Yoko Ono is not simply content to deal
with the past, to speak about what happened and to contextualize the
Bed-in, but continues her actions to spread the same message about
peace. Today, at seventy-five, Yoko Ono is still active within the
contemporary art world with which she has been associated for close to
fifty years. The latest retrospective of her work, Between the Sky and
My Head, was recently presented in Germany and is currently on show in
England. In 2004 she mounted a controversial exhibition of photographs
depicting parts of women’s bodies.

A “conscientious objector” during a period of societal and political
crisis throughout the world, John Lennon, along with his muse and alter
ego Yoko Ono, sang a message of hope and tolerance that sought the
transformation of violence into peace, and hate and racism into love.

The exhibition invites you to explore all the facets of the musical,
artistic and political collaboration whose works so closely reflected
the spirit of their time, yet still speak to us today. Although Ms.
Ono’s loan of these exceptional works has allowed this look at a chapter
of history to be put together, the exhibition is not intended to consign
the message of peace to the past. Indeed, this avant-garde artist of
Japanese origin associated with the Fluxus and conceptual art movements
has never ceased to promote peace in her works, from those in the 1966
Indica Gallery exhibition where she first met John Lennon to those of
today, shown around the world.

After their wedding at the British Consulate in Gibraltar on March 20,
1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono flew to Amsterdam to devote their
honeymoon to the first Bed-in for peace at that city’s Hilton Hotel
(March 25-31). Their second Bed-in, which couldn’t be held in the United
States since Lennon was denied entry, was staged in Montreal, in Suite
1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (May 26-June 2). Knowing that their
honeymoon would be a magnet for paparazzi, the couple decided to turn it
into a public event to advance the cause of peace. The normally private,
personal bed became a public stage, a podium, a forum where, dressed in
pyjamas, they explained their perspective on the Vietnam War to the
world’s press.

On December 15, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono launched an international
advertising campaign for peace in twelve of the world’s major cities:
Athens, Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Port of
Spain (Trinidad and Tobago), Rome, Tokyo, Toronto and, once again,
Montreal. Huge billboards in each national language went up at strategic
locations, proclaiming “WAR IS OVER! If you want it. Happy Christmas
from John and Yoko.” The format varied with the available space, ranging
from immense billboards in New York’s Times Square to posters and
handout flyers, all bearing the same message. The campaign kicked off
with the “Peace for Christmas” benefit concert for UNICEF at London’s
Lyceum Theatre on that same December 15. For the occasion, the Plastic
Ono Band was joined by George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann and
Keith Moon of the Who. The next day, John and Yoko took the peace
campaign to Toronto, and met with Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliott
Trudeau. On December 21, an ad with their “War is over” message appeared
in the New York Times.

IMAGINE will retrace the story of these two major figures, from their
meeting in 1966 to their first creations promoting peace, which
culminated in the May 1969 Bed-in. The exhibition will examine the
legacy of such anthemic songs as 1971’s “Imagine” and “Power to the
People,” or such albums as Imagine and 1972’s Some Time in New York
City. A musical soundscape will be the backdrop to this look at the
ballad of John and Yoko, while rare documents—drawings, unpublished
photographs, videos, films, artworks and interactive materials will
convey the couple’s message of universal peace.

Following Warhol Live, this spring the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will
continue in a musical vein by celebrating the fortieth anniversary of
John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous 1969 Bed-in in Montreal with an
exhibition designed to renew their still-topical peace message.
Admission to the exhibition will be free in order to enable the widest
possible public to understand, be moved by and perpetuate this message
today. A supremely committed artist, Yoko Ono is not simply content to
deal with the past, to speak about what happened and to contextualize
the Bed-in, but continues her actions to spread the same message about
peace

Organized by Centre Pompidou curator Emma Lavigne and Thierry Planelle,
sound consultant to Jean Paul Gaultier and Hermes, the show ranges from
the couple’s original meeting in 1966 through their life in New York in
1971-72, and also includes two installations by Yoko, The Wish Tree and
Ex it, a suite of 100 coffins with a tree protruding from each.

More Press

Libération
John Lennon et Yoko Ono encore dans de beaux draps

Reuters.com
Montreal show looks at Lennon’s bed-in, 40 years on

Québec Info Musique
Yoko Ono: un printemps montréalais

Tolérance.ca
Sous les projecteurs. La ballade pour la paix de John & Yoko

Dimanche.Matin.com,
Imagine la paix…Yoko Ono à Montréal pour présenter l’exposition

Branchez-vous
Le message de paix de Yoko Ono à Montréal

La Presse
Yoko fait son lit à Montréal
Allo, c’est Yoko
Un message de paix de Yoko Ono diffusé dans le métro de Montréal
Un demi-siècle de paix
La paix, ça marche encore?

La Presse canadienne
Un message de paix sera diffusé dans le métro

Patwhite.com
L’exposition Imagine Yoko Ono au Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Journal Le Métro
La veuve de John Lennon, Yoko Ono, livre à Montréal un message de paix

Le Devoir
Yoko Ono à Montréal – Guerre et paix

Voir Montréal
La paix avec nous

Canoë.ca, Journal de Montréal
Petite ballade pour la paix

Le Concierge.com
World’s Best Hotel Beds

La Presse
Au lit avec Yoko
Yoko la méchante

Le Journal de Montréal
Yoko et Montréal

The Gazette
Give Peace Another Chance

La Presse
Musée des beaux-arts: créer la paix
Aurait-on jeté trop vite les albums de Yoko à la poubelle?

Le Journal de Montréal
Nathalie Bondil. Celle qui a ramené Yoko Ono à Montréal

Le Métro
Le Musée des beaux-arts souligne les 40 ans du “Bed-in” de Lennon et Ono

La Presse
Yoko livre un message de paix à Montréal

Radio-Canada.ca
Yoko Ono : Il est temps d’agir pour la paix

IMAGINE: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko

April 2 to June 21, 2009

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion: Level 3
1380 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
Information: 514-285-2000

Floor plan here

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2009-09-05T16:11:51+00:00 April 10th, 2009|Events & Exhibitions|