Yoko Ono at 80
It’s been a very busy couple of years for Yoko Ono—the 80-year-old icon curated London’s Meltdown Festival; released a new Plastic Ono Band album (while promoting the album on David Letterman, she simply chanted “Stop all wars”); and curated a show for the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art.
A lifetime leader of peace, Ono rarely falters in her capacity to provoke the mind. Her responses are always unexpected yet axiomatic, and she always sounds like an extension of her seminal text, Grapefruit. Though our days are filled with conflict and cynicism, Ono is resolute on the subject peace.
The Aesthete: What do you think is the most important work of the artist?
Yoko Ono: Artists accumulate experience with their wisdom. The result is staggering. We, artists, embody experiences only given for having lived in now. Sharing our body/mind molecules with the world in silence alone will send out healing power. And we have the responsibility to the world to do that.
TA: How do you respond to the current culture of cynicism? Do you speak with current pop artists about the message in their music?
YO: Cynicism is understanding of life in a very surface way, which translates to not understanding. So ignore cynicism. It does not have the power to affect anything and anybody. Speaking with another artist is not an important activity. Getting the message is more important. For that, you don’t have to speak to each other. We are all carriers of truth. The truth is what we need to give and share.
TA: Why do you think the public spends more time discussing a pop star’s explicit video than something with immediate impact on individual lives, like the US government shutting down or the chemical wars in Syria?
YO: We have a tendency to close our eyes and ears to what is important for us to know, and act upon it. Don’t be a carrier of whispers about nothing that is really important.
TA: You have devoted a majority of your life to peace. At the same time, violence is ever-apparent. You also have witnessed decades of international conflict and intimately experienced violence. Do you at times fear that peace is impossible?
YO: We are making a great effort in still keeping the planet peaceful, every day. If we didn’t, you would have been dead long time ago.
TA: Most people expect someone to produce less work at your age, but you have had a very productive artistic year. How has the natural aging process affected your artwork?
YO: I am what I am. My effort was to stay truthful, and I have.
TA: Yoko, you are a matriarch to a generation of artists and a continuing symbol of peace for the public-at-large. What do you want your legacy to be? What do you imagine for the world many years from now?
YO: I am dealing with the now. I have no time to ponder on such things you are asking me. Legacy should be the legacy of the planet. Future is what we create so there is no mystery. We ask for sustainability and survival.