This series is dedicated to the film work of Yoko Ono (Tokyo, 1933), sixteen films made between 1966 and 1982 that fill a unique space in the history of independent film in the United States. Yoko Ono participated in a general assault on film conventions during an extraordinarily creative period in American culture, during which directors developed alternative forms of production, distribution and exhibition. Coming from the same complex set of interdisciplinary experiences that inspired performance art and objects during those years, Ono’s films are like her songs (with their characteristic abstract expressivity) and like her artworks and sculptures because they too focus on materials in such a way that they expose the very phenomenon of perception.
Yoko Ono confronts the foundation of film, its capacity to photographically record what comes in front of the lens, revealing both the material process of imprinting the film and, at the same time, its ability to penetrate beyond the surface of the image. In No.1 (Match) (1966), the simple gesture of lighting a match fills the screen. The image becomes a metaphor for the light in the projector and illumination itself becomes the theme of the film. Her best-known film Bottoms (1966) embodies her interest in the body and the film strategies used to represent it. Later films celebrate her relationship with John Lennon, who she met in 1966. Film No. 5 (Smile) (1968) uses the camera to capture the fleeting emotions reflected on Lennon’s face, while Two Virgins (1968) is a brief lyric expression of their love, mixed and fused with the images of bodies.
Celebrity and feminism is the theme of another of Yoko Ono’s most complex and committed films, Rape (1969), while Erection (1971) and Apotheosis (1970) focus on the process of movement and change over time. In these films, which like her other films bear no relation to any narrative conventions, the camera is like an eye, an instrument for observation. As with her work in performance art and sculpture, these films show the materials, which in this case are characteristic of film: the production and the filming of the images.