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Yoko Ono Presents Final 2009-2010 Convocation Address

May. 03, 2010


Multimedia artist Yoko Ono has been challenging the traditional boundaries of art throughout her nearly 50-year career. She is known for creating groundbreaking conceptual and performance art as well as experimental films and music.

Ono will visit Oberlin College on Thursday, May 6, to deliver the last of the college’s 2009-10 Convocation Series addresses. She will screen excerpts from her films, discuss her work, and answer questions from the audience. The Convocation, “A Conversation with Yoko Ono,” takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Finney Chapel. Her talk is free, but tickets are required.

During the week of May 3 to 7, members of the Oberlin community are invited to participate in Ono’s “Wish Tree for Oberlin,” an installation that depends on individuals’ participation to be fully realized. The artist instructs participants to:

“Make a wish.
Write it down on a piece of paper.
Tie it to the branch of the wish tree.
Ask your friends to do the same.
Keep wishing
Until all the branches are covered with wishes.”

Oberlin will cultivate the wishes and send them to Ono, who intends to make them part of her Imagine Peace Tower outside of Reykjavik, Iceland.

Yoko Ono’s connection to Oberlin does not begin with her impending visit. Her grandfather Eijiro Ono graduated from Oberlin in 1887, and her uncle Tokuji Saisho studied art in the college from 1916 to 1918. Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo in 1933. She moved to New York in 1953 to study music composition and poetry, and she began taking part in many of the city’s early happenings and avant-garde art activities. In the early 1960s, she joined the Fluxus group of artists, and in 1962, she held a one-person exhibition at the Sogestu Art Center in Tokyo. In 1964, she published her seminal art book Grapefruit. In 1966, she moved to London, where she met John Lennon, and, in 1969, formed the Plastic Ono Band.

In 2001, YES YOKO ONO, a 40-year retrospective of her work, received the International Association of Art Critics USA Award for Best Museum Show Originating in New York City. In 2009, she received the prestigious Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement from the Venice Biennale.

Reflecting on her reputation for being outrageous, Ono smiles and says, “I do have to rely on my own judgment, although to some people my judgment seems a little out of sync. I have my own rhythm and my own timing, and that’s simply how it is.”

Yoko Ono’s visit, which coincides with Oberlin’s Asian American Heritage Month celebrations, is sponsored by the college’s Creative Writing Program, East Asian Studies Program, and the Office of the President.

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