Yoko Ono's Birthday
18th February 2014
I am at the Museum of Contemporary Art in The Rocks, and the lady at the counter asks me if I know it is Yoko Ono’s birthday today. I shake my head. Well, she says, you can have two tickets for the price of one, to celebrate! I love a bargain, but I am alone today. I turn to the young man standing behind me, and ask him if he is going to see Yoko. Yes, he is. I am entitled to a $15 ‘senior’ pass, but I pay $20 for a regular ticket, and hand him one, saying “Happy Birthday Yoko!” He reaches for his wallet, but I say, it’s a gift. His beam stretches wide, I must buy you something, he insists. Not at all, I say – where are you from? New Zealand, he says. Well, welcome to Australia – what is your name? We introduce ourselves and look at each other just a fraction too long, both smiing and uncertain what to do next. Enjoy the show, I say, and I am tempted to kiss him, but I think he may think I am a wierd old lady, so refrain. I wish I had kissed him. This show is about love and peace – the spirit of Yoko – and I enter the show feeling light and happy.
There are hundreds of people here, and I do not see him again. There is a group of mothers with large prams and some with babies strapped to their breasts, and a guide explaining each exhibit. So often mothers with bubs are pilloried – yet I do not hear one baby cry, and these young women are so obviously pleased to be here. What a great idea.
The show confronts me. It is interactive, and I weep as I write two messages to my mother, adding them to a long wall filled with pink and yellow notepaper, largely words of love, but I read one that says ‘I hate you’. I bind together three pieces of sharp white crockery with string and glue, fragile and ill matched, uncertain as to why I am doing this, other than there is a written request from Yoko to do so. I am surprised to discover I am thinking of my brother and sister and realise this clumsy binding represents our current relationship. I watch two short films alongside of each other, entitled “Cut” – where Yoko sits, immobile whilst her clothing is cut from her body, why would she do this? But I am touched by the gentle respect of the cutters until a man – one in each film – approach her with such aggression I gasp, as she is metaphorically raped – but she continues to sit, only her eyes reflecting her emotion. I watch those films three times. There are people playing chess on white boards with white chess pieces, there are no winners and losers. There are upturned helmets from World War II hanging from the ceiling and I accept her invitation to pick up a piece of blue sky puzzle from one – we are all one, she says. There is a family cast in bronze sitting on a park bench wearing body tags from the morgue, with their small dog at their feet. There are pots and pans suspended in mid air, drawn by a giant magnet, and a glass maze. I remove my shoes and enter, attempting to get to the telephone in its heart, and find my way there carefully, arms stretched out in front of me, as I have already banged painfully into a glass wall. It bears a sign “If the phone rings, it is Yoko”, and I wait hopefully but she doesn’t call.
I reluctantly leave and outside the water in the harbour glitters, the Harbour Bridge oversees the Opera House, a vast cruise ship, the ferries, and a diverse multitude of people. I see a man wearing a skirt. I sit, a little conspicuously alone and in my large hat, bathed in sunshine at a smart restaurant, and eat a chicken salad. I sip a glass of champagne, and feel grateful.
For an hour I sit and watch, mesmerised, and then I feel a sudden longing. I catch the train back to my friends who are puppy sitting The Baby Cino. I have missed her.
I wonder if Yoko is doing some kind of survey about generosity.