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Surrounded by the greenery of Kensington Gardens lies The Serpentine Gallery, which is host to Yoko Ono’s first UK retrospective exhibition in over a decade.

It’s an exhibition that’s free as part of the London 2012 Festival, incredibly interactive, and has an underlying message of love, peace, and freedom throughout. It fills you with positive energy and has you walking home with a smile stamped across your face.

‘To The Light’ sees the influential 79 year old Japanese artist do exactly that, step into the light once again, out of John Lennon’s ever present shadow. She shows us via new and past installations why for decades she’s been more influential to contemporary art than anyone bothers giving her credit for. Apart from being an exceptional conceptual artist; much of which is displayed here, she can also be credited as a film director, poet, musician, and activist.

Most of the pieces are quite primitive in thought and execution, in the sense that their messages are obvious, simple, but captivating. We are welcomed into the exhibition ‘Three Mounds’, which is exactly that. Mounds of dirt, each labelled as Country A, B, and C, it attempts to blur the invisible frontiers between countries at war.

‘AMAZE’ (1971); which is quite literally a massive see-through glass maze, invites you to enter it allowing you to go from being the observer to the observed. Similarly, but via multimedia through her ambitious #smilesfilm project; she aspires to connect people across the world by capturing our smiles through photography.

A highlight is ‘Cut Piece’. Here you’ll see two flat screens facing each other, each containing a differently aged Ono. One shows an innocent, almost frightened, younger version (1964), while the other is a much older, composed representation (2003). It is interesting comparing them – seeing people’s reactions, actions, and they way in which they approached the artist differently, all commenting on how morals and general perceptions within society have changed and morphed during the 40 year gap between them.

Yoko Ono has proved with her ambiguous and prolific ventures into poetry, music, and art; but mostly through her constant activism and the spread of anti-war and community enforcing messages, why despite her age she remains an innovator to be reckoned with.

Perhaps Yoko Ono’s at times outdated hippie-peace-and-love campaigning is exactly what we need to be reminded of in a world where more than often we forget to do the simplest of things: smile.

Yoko Ono ‘To The Light’ is on at London’s Serpentine Gallery until the 9th of September 2012.

– Walter Ugarkovic

Images courtesy of The Serpentine Gallery


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