ARISING – die happening am 18 Mai 2013
(Yoko Ono mit Karlyn De Jongh (links) und Sarah Gold (rechts))
Sarah Gold: Yoko Ono, it is a great honour to be sitting here with you, and to have your work ARISING in our exhibition PERSONAL STRUCTURES. I think this work is an amazing opportunity for women to express their experiences, and this seems to be confirmed when considering the response that we have gotten already: women from all over the world have been sending letters and emails and also in the exhibition itself women are contributing, by sitting down and writing their stories behind the desk that you placed here in Palazzo Bembo. It seems to help them to express their experiences, to share their stories. And it seems to open doors for other women who did not participate in your work, too.
YO: I am very very happy that my work is presented here in this PERSONAL STRUCTURES exhibition. I think it is very very important that we reach other women. After I did this, I thought: “Did I forget about men?” But let’s do women first, because women are really in trouble for over 2000 years. All that time, there was a male society. So, we just have to hear what women had to go through. I think it is very interesting to hear their stories and did not expect it would open such a big door. Now this door is open! And there are so many women who wanted to say something, they are coming here to Palazzo Bembo. It is a very big thing: it is as if the whole world of women is getting the opportunity to say something.
Some of my work is just asking people for conceptual participation, but many of the works ask people to physically participate. This is why it is interesting to me that these women are talking to me and there is a big exchange. I hope that this is going to help the world a little. Interesting is also, I thought we would be needing only about twenty letters from women.
(Yoko Ono’s raum in Palazzo Bembo. An der wand die geschichten der Frauen.)
Karlyn De Jongh: The response has been overwhelming so far, as we can see in the number of contributions in your space here in Palazzo Bembo. And there is still time until the end of the Biennale for more women to participate.
YO: Yes! As soon as we opened the website, 84 women immediately came with their story. I thought, “What am I going to do?” I am going to treasure each one of them and we are going to make a book out of it as a record of the women’s right in our society.KDJ: Yoko, in this work ARISING that you are presenting here at the 2013 Venice Biennale, PERSONAL STRUCTURES, you have also asked women to send or give a photo of their eyes. Why do you wish to connect the visual image of the person with their story? And why did you choose to ask only for a photo of their eyes? YO: I am so glad that you ask that question. The reason is because many women are in danger of speaking out. We have to protect them. We cannot have a full face, because maybe they will be attacked again. So, I just wanted something from them – a part of the face – so that we can connect with that woman. When I saw some of the eyes, it was remarkable to see how destroyed some of the eyes are. Some of the eyes are really frightened or shocked. The things that these women went through, are visible in their eyes. I think it worked. The fact that we cannot ask them to show their faces nor to spell their full name, is because of how our society is nowadays. That is how much we are threatened and how we are scared. We are human beings, so naturally we are going to be scared and that is all right. We have to protect each other.
SG: Your work is called ARISING. What does the title mean to you?
YO: We, women, are now rising together. ARISING expresses the rising of our spirits.
(Der Text fuer RISING, der in Yoko Ono’s video in Palazzo Bembo zu hoeren ist)
SG: What was for you the relation between ARISING and your record RISING? Why do you think the two works fitted so well together?
YO: RISING was telling all people that it is time for us to rise and fight for our rights. But in the process of fighting together, Women are still being treated separately in an inhuman way. It weakens the power of men and women all together. I hope ARISING will wake up WOMEN POWER, and make us, men and women, heal together.
I think it is important that I made the record, because it is the voice of a woman who went through a lot of pain, which was me. The reason why I created such a vocal – many people disliked it, so I might as well get a credit for it – was because when I was a young girl, my mother told me: “Never go near the servants’ room, because they are talking about things you do not want to know.” Of course, I wanted to go there! I sneaked up and heard them speak, “Did you know that my aunt just had a baby? And having a baby is a very strange thing, because she was going “whoa, whoa, whoaaa!”.” I thought, “hmm, this is scary…,”and ran back to my room. But I never forgot that.
Later I realised that in society, woman are liked for being pretty and making pretty sounds and singing pretty songs. Those are the ones that sell the most, not someone who sings “whoaaa!”. If you cannot sell it, what are you going to do?
I thought, I have to tell the world that women are not just pretty, but they created the human race. We brought the children into this world. And that is a very difficult act. It is not very much spoken about, but giving birth is a very dangerous thing to do. Many women die from it. It is a very important and dangerous thing and we all have to go through it. It is not a pretty and happy thing at all. It is a very important and serious thing! It is even much more powerful than a huge earthquake. Each child that comes into this world is going to influence our society.
This is the kind of thing that women go through and when you listen to that song, you will understand that it is your emotion. It is your experience that is turned into music.
(Von links nach rechts: Karlyn De Jongh, Yoko Ono, Sarah Gold, Valeria Romagnini und Carol Rolla)
KDJ: When we burnt the silicon bodies for your work, we went with a whole group of people to one of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon. There were also many men present. To burn these bodies, was a very strong experience for everybody I think, not only for the women that were there. It seemed to me that also for the men it was a strong experience.
YO: Yes, it would be unfair to say that men just like pretty voices. They are nobody without the presence of women. When you face them with this, then they start to understand. Now there are also what I call ‘new-age men’: there are many men who are very understanding and they are also suffering because of that understanding. John was one of those men and he always said he felt lonely, because there were not many men around who understood it. He wished there to be a group of men to talk about it, because he felt very very alone. Now there are many new-age men and that is great. When I am in New York and go to Central Park, I see many men pushing a baby car. Now this is a natural thing, nobody is surprised about it. But they do not know that when John did this, nobody did it. No man wanted to be seen with a baby car. I am very very happy that now it is a normal thing. I thank John for being so courageous.
(Yoko Ono in ihren raum in Palazzo Bembo, mit im vordergrund den stapel verbrennte koerper)
SG: Do you think that by addressing these themes in your work and at the same time asking people to participate in your works, that you contributed in educating our society?
YO: Yes, very much so. The more you participate, the more you make this a normal thing. It became normal that women are strong. It is ok to be strong. We were so scared of being strong and we made ourselves small, I made myself small. In China they for example had to make their feet very small. Women were suffering from it. Every night they cried. That is how bad it was. That is how bad the society was to women.
Now it is getting better and better, but we have to understand: we are not the only ones in a society. We also have to understand the suffering of the opposite sex. They have suffering too, you know. I started to learn about this, when I was reading a lot of books about WWI and WWII, for example. The books described how men’s faces were destroyed and how they lost their limbs. It was a terrible situation that men went through. Men have a different way of dealing with it. They are so macho that they do not want to complain. But we have to understand all the difficult situations that they have, which they cannot speak about because they are macho, but they are very lonely. We women make men lonely in that sense. So, this work ARISING reaches to men as well.
KDJ: What is it that you hope for, for the future?
YO: Well, for the future, I am always hoping that we are able to create a better society and we are doing it. Some people are skeptical about it, because we still have war. Ok. But you know, the thing is: the world did not collapse. Maybe we are holding up the sky, but at least we are still ok. We do no longer have the luxury to indulge in negative thinking, because the thing is becoming incredibly dangerous and complicated. If we want to survive as a human race, we have to start by being positive. Be positive first and then complain later.
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sz (via mail, thx jo)
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