Friday, May 8, 2009

Yoko Ono Shines Her Light on Venice

(Venice, Italy) Yoko Ono (b. February 18, 1933, Tokyo, Japan), together with John Baldesarri (b. June 17, 1931, National City, CA, USA) will receive this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 53rd La Biennale International Art Exhibition, directed by Daniel Birnbaum. Here is Yoko's reaction in her own words:

Yoko Ono to receive Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion at Venice Biennale 2009
24 February 2009

Message from Yoko Ono:

Dear Friends,

When I heard that I was selected for the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award of 2009, I felt like i was in a fog, listening to a foghorn far away!
The fog slowly cleared.
The foghorn changed into the speech the director of the Biennale was giving on this occasion.
So what should I say…thank you?

John would have been so proud of me.
“I told you, didn’t I?” he would say.
I am glad, too.

I feel like I was suddenly given a huge birthday card.
I see myself struggling to hold it in my heart.
Thank you for being there for me all these years.
I am a lucky girl.
Yoko Ono
1 March 2009

Click here to go to Yoko's Imagine Peace website:

In addition to the deep love and respect I felt for her husband, John Lennon, Yoko and are MySpace buddies, Facebook buddies, Twitter buddies, etc. We also shared a real-life buddy, Emily Harvey, now deceased. Emily, like John and Yoko, was a valiant voice for art, imagination, creativity and hope. John Lennon was like the Sun to me as a young person, and I incorporated that energy into my first novel, Harley, Like a Person. It is something deeply satisfying, rewarding, yet humbling to have that kind of energy pass through your fingertips and out into the world. Encouraging creativity, to me, has always been like handing off a magical baton, a solar gift from the gods that belongs to us all.

Emily Harvey's gallery was a minute away from where I live; she owned an apartment 30 seconds away on the same calle in which she had restored the floor to the rare, original Venetian red. We had a short, but intense relationship -- so profound that she plays a starring role in my second novel, Harley's Ninth (as does Yoko:), in which I tried to combine contemporary and classical thought, using simple words, in order to reach a broad range of readers. Before Yoko Ono met John Lennon, she was an early participant in the Fluxus art movement, a movement that Emily Harvey strongly supported.

From Wikipedia:

"The Fluxus artistic philosophy can be expressed as a synthesis of four key factors that define the majority of Fluxus work:

1. Fluxus is an attitude. It is not a movement or a style.[4]
2. Fluxus is intermedia.[5] Fluxus creators like to see what happens when different media intersect. They use found and everyday objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.
3. Fluxus works are simple. The art is small, the texts are short, and the performances are brief.
4. Fluxus is fun. Humour has always been an important element in Fluxus. (Those italics are mine.)

Among its early associates were Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, La Monte Young and Yoko Ono who explored media ranging from performance art to poetry to experimental music to film. "

To read the entire article, click here:

Here is a quote I like from John Baldessari: "If I saw the art around me that I liked, then I wouldn't do art."

It may surprise some of you to know that although I embrace contemporary thought, there is a part of me that is a bit conservative, especially when it comes to art and music. Maddalena della Somaglia interviewed Msgr. Guido Marini, who will accompany the Pope to the Holy Land, for the New Liturgical Movement:
Somaglia: Is there a relationship between the sacred liturgy and art and architecture? Should the call of the Pope to continuity in the liturgy be extended to art and sacred architecture?

Marini: There is certainly a vital relationship between the liturgy, sacred art and architecture. In part because sacred art and architecture, as such, must be suitable to the liturgy and its content, which finds expression in its celebration. Sacred art in its many manifestations, lives in connection with the infinite beauty of God and toward God, and should be oriented to His praise and His glory. Between liturgy, art and architecture there cannot be then, contradiction or dialectic. As a consequence, if it is necessary for a theological and historical continuity in the liturgy, this continuity should therefore also be a visible and coherent expression in sacred art and architecture.

Click here to visit the website:

Venice is an ancient city, filled with glorious art and architecture that has stood the test of time. La Biennale is a contemporary festival. These two energies should be able to blend together and create harmony instead of crashing into each other and causing destruction. It seems that every year the skirmishes during La Biennale grow more fierce, and this year is no exception. Already, battlelines are being drawn. Perhaps we should pause and remember why Venice was christened La Serenissima, which means "the most serene." From John Julius Norwich's A History of Venice, regarding Venice in the 1400s:

"Beyond her borders, all Italy had succumbed to the age of despotism; only Venice remained a strong, superbly ordered republic, possessed of a constitution that had almost effortlessly weathered every political storm, foreign or domestic, to which it had been exposed. The majority of her people, admittedly, had been shorn of effective power for the past hundred years, and the last vestige of that power -- the general convocation or arengo -- would be abolished by the time the century that was now beginning had run a quarter of its course; (Cat comment--> that was the beginning of the end:) but the civil service was open to all, commerce and craftsmanship for which the city was famous provided a source of pride and satisfaction as well as rich material rewards, and few citizens ever seriously doubted that the administration -- quite apart from being outstandingly efficient -- had their own best interests at heart."

If Art reflects Life, then right now we are in trouble indeed. I have said repeatedly that, to me, Venice is a microcosm of the macrocosm -- as goes Venice, so goes the world. There is false gaiety in Venice, as there is false gaiety throughout the world. If the base is not strong, based on solid values, the structure will collapse. As we try to reconstruct our world, perhaps a passage from Manly P. Hall fits well:

"The dark world of materiality is ruled by fear, hate, greed, and lust. In it wander the ghosts of human beings -- shades of men and women floating listlessly to and fro upon the sea of sensation. Only when the soul comes into a realization of the spiritual verities of life does it escape from this underworld. ... The sun of Truth rises in man and illumines his world when he lifts his mind from the darkness of selfishness and ignorance into the light of selflessness and wisdom."
I was very affected by my contact with Emily, who I met just before she found out she had pancreatic cancer. We had an intense encounter in NYC where she told me she did not want to die. I never forgot her wish, so I decided to incorporate her into my second novel, Harley's Ninth. I wanted to introduce an entirely new generation to Emily and her work with Fluxus. Ben Vautier, an artist involved with Emily, had created a piece called Life Never Stops "AN EXHIBITION AROUND LIFE ZEN AND ART WITH THE PARTICIPATION OF SOME OF EMILYS FLUXUS FRIENDS." I am holding the bright red invitation right now in my hand from the show that took place here in Venice way back in June 11, 2003. (The image you see is from Stevio and can be found at That image inspired the fictional Most Promising Young Artist Competition inside my book. 

Long ago, I wrote a MySpace blog in a MySpace voice about a truly Fluxus moment called Miracle at Remer - Emily Harvey, which you can find if you click here:

John Lennon credited Yoko Ono over and again for awakening the creative energy inside himself. If we examine what she has created alone since he has been gone, she has only continued to shine the Sun of Truth greater and brighter. (That image you see is Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower in Finland.) To me, Yoko is a powerful force for harmony, and I applaud La Biennale in Venice for bringing her light here to shine on all of us, and recognizing her Lifetime of Achievement.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - Venice Blog