If you were sitting at home on a Thursday night some twenty-three years ago and happened to be watching Fox, you would have seen an animated character very clearly based on Yoko Ono walk into Moe’s Taven on The Simpsons and order her imagined cocktail of choice, “a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man’s hat.” It was a throwaway line playing on the popular conception of Ono as an art world eccentric.
Now, if you walk into Ono’s “One More Story…” exhibit currently on display at Reykjavik Art Museum you will find sitting in the middle of a gallery atop a white pedestal, a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man’s hat.
Yes, Ono has turned a joke made at her expense into actual museum-grade artwork. Though, there seems to be a bit of a question as to whether she’s aware of that fact or not.
The exhibit is one part retrospective with works from across her sixty-year career either presented or recreated, and one part new works, many of which rely on collaboration and participation. For one of the new works, Ono asked twelve Icelandic artists to contribute a work based on the following prompt:
*My dear fellow artists, I want to ask you to supply a vessel for the water to give to specific people, either to heal their minds (such as in the case of warlords), or appreciate their courage in speaking out (such as in the case of grassroots activists). It can also be given to a specific person, people, or the land in desperate need for water (love). You and I will supply the water. Each work will be exhibited in the museum, with the dedication attached to it.
Let’s have fun in doing this together.
My love and respect to you.
Ragnar Kjartansson, a performance and visual artists who often makes keen use of humor, submitted the piece based on The Simpsons joke.
The joke in question comes from the classic episode that chronicles Homer Simpson’s former life as a member of a superstar barbershop quartet whose rise and fall is meant as a parody of The Beatle’s career. Naturally, tensions boil over when Barney Gumble, another member of the band, starts dating a Japanese performance artist who pushes his creative output into more outré directions. Though not specifically identified as Ono, the reference is pretty clear. The Yoko Ono-inspired character also collaborates on a track with Barney in which she records herself saying the phrase “number 8” over and over again to a back track of burps, a parody of Ono-influenced Beatles track “Revolution 9.”
It all plays on the once popular conception as Ono as just some weirdo who broke up The Beatles, and no one is really sure whether or not Ono is aware of the reference. Though, we have to imagine someone would have alerted her to the reference before it was displayed.
In any event, Ono’s undeserved image as main villainous in the Beatles melodrama has softened in recent years, while she’s taking her rightful place as a highly respected and influential artist in her own right. Even Kendall Jenner is paying tribute to her artwork nowadays.
It only makes sense that more than two decades later she’d get the last laugh in a major exhibit celebrating her career.
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