Sunday, February 18, 2018

Grapefruit League: Yoko Ono 85

We're going to detour for a day from the Black History tributes -- stay tuned for the return to those posts on Wednesday -- and give it up to one of my all-time favorite artistes.
Today's birthday girl was born in 1933, and even her most ardent detractors could not fail to comprehend the fact that she's lived quite a lifetime.
Yes, the detractors. Detractors is a nice, polite word, isn't it? I'd prefer to use the term Racist Enablers Of Misogyny myself. There's another, monosyllabic word for them as well. It rhymes with "stunt".
Yep, those detractors. Funny how they don't have such enmity and hatred -- such as been spewed for 50 years at her -- for the other Avant Garde iconoclasts. You never hear about how Ornette Coleman (yes she collaborated with him more than once) is a phony or a charlatan anymore. In fact, he's revered as a deity of the music of our age.
So why is this woman so reviled, and for so little comprehensible reason? She scream-sings? So do Meredith Monk, Linda Sharrock, Leon Thomas, Peter Hammill, John Lydon, and a trillion other beloveds. She invented it, and all those folks I just listed drew the inspiration for it from her. What's wrong, haters? Can't get your ears around your Oh Baby I Love You Why Did You Leave Me? puerilities without some Caucasoid-dictated profit-motivated melodic laws?
I guess the most common bullshit trope is that, by marrying into the family, she broke up everyone's favorite Mop Top Quartet. As if those blokes didn't all loathe each other before she came on the set. As if the Caucasian lady that was married to the other main dude didn't accelerate their demise by demanding that her rich White Daddy manage their money... a supposition the other three had less than zero intent of enacting, and for reasons that could only remain not obvious to the willfully obtuse.
Honestly it all makes me sick to my soul, and has for long enough that I am typing this pointed diatribe about it. When anyone reading this has amassed a 60 year career at the forefront of Modern Art and Conceptual Art... when you all have had your work displayed multiple times in multiple galleries, museums, installations, various Museums Of Modern Art.... well then you can feel free to criticize other people. Until then it's time for you to STFU about the gift to Humankind that is Yoko Ono.
It's so funny to me that assholes can fall on their knees in genuflection to their working class hero John Lennon, and fail to get their lizard brains around the fact that their boy chose to spend his life with this lady, and to enable in any way he could the various messages contained in her work to reach a wider swath of the public.
The best part is that she couldn't care less and never really has. Her thrust is positivity, peaceful reflection and imagination, and she's stuck with those precepts for the whole arc of her journey, haters making their own craters to live in like they always do.
And lo and behold, she has reached a milestone age of 85 today, a figure few live to tread. I hope she lives to be 185, just to continue to hold up the mirror to what her detractors don't seem to get about themselves.
To commemorate the date and hopefully do something to ameliorate the hate and accentuate the great, I have deposited into the digicumulus a wild, wild, wild DVD of two insane, insane, insane full TV broadcasts from the Golden Age of Public Television in the US.
This one looks like a 1st generation VHS copy of the WNET-TV masters... it's a bit dusty but it's overwhelmingly immersive in its documentation of Yoko's oeuvre. Watch out for filmmaking legend Jonas Mekas and a husband Beatle backseating himself so his wife can get her stuff across unencumbered by his celebrity.
Yoko Ono 
with John Lennon & friends
PBS-TV
New York City, NY
1971 + 1973

01 "Free Time"
WNET Studios
New York City, NY
10.14.1971
with Jonas Mekas

explication of exhibits from Yoko's 1972 Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse, NY) installation,
"A Grapefruit In the World of Park"

originally aired 5.11.1972

02 "Flipside"
Record Plant East
New York City, NY
5.12.1973

including footage of "Joseijoi Banzai," "Death of Samantha," "Catman (The Rosies Are Coming)," and "Winter Song," from the recording of "Approximately Infinite Universe" by Yoko Ono in Autumn 1972 

plus in-studio interviews with Yoko and John Lennon recorded May 1973

originally aired 6.30.1973

Total time: 1:26:31

NTSC DVD of what looks to be a 1st gen VHS tape of the WNET master tapes
dusty but essential viewing
4.12 GB NTSC here
This 90 minutes is totally thrilling viewing, and in addition to the glimpse into the vintage '70s Yokoverse offers a raw, uncut glimpse into the completely unhinged world of PBS when it was first starting out. 
The first segment takes place in an all-white studio where Yoko's various exhibits are acted out with participation from the audience, and the second showcases unbelievable footage of her in the studio, recording her epic LP Approximately Infinite Universe.
I shall return with another 85th b'day party in a few days, but for now I insist that you stop hating and start celebrating the life and singular artistic legacy of Yoko Ono, born this day in 1933 and still Feeling The Space!--J.