Bug's Eye View
Yoko Ono's first exhibition in Moscow shows how a cockroach might view human
// By Marina Kamenev, The MOSCOW TIMES
1 june 2007
Nearly three decades after John Lennon was shot, the word "imagine" is still part of Yoko Ono's rhetoric. The world's best-known widow came to Moscow this week to present an exhibition that imagines peace and depicts life through the eyes of a cockroach.
Russian journalists wore their John Lennon memorabilia to a Tuesday news conference dedicated to the opening of "Odyssey of a Cockroach," a latecomer to this year's Moscow Biennale, most of which place in March. The exhibition at TsUM is a set of installations that evoke the doom and gloom of 20th-century society. It has previously been shown in New York and London.
At the news conference, star-struck reporters fired a steady stream of questions in Ono's direction. One asked what her parents thought of her work. "I don't know. They are dead," she retorted quite cheerfully, in her Japanese accent.
Ono was paying her second visit to Moscow, and her first since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "Russia always surprises me," she remarked in an interview Wednesday. "When I first got here in the '80s, I never expected people to have a sense of humor, but I laughed a lot." This time, Ono was surprised by the shopping. "I never expected the clothes to be so hip," she giggled as she proudly listed some purchases.
The 74-year-old artist seemed more like a kindly grandmother than a feared "dragon lady," as she has been labeled in the press for her hostility during interviews. It was hard to imagine that only three years ago posters of her genitalia lined some streets in central Liverpool as part of their Biennial.
Her new exhibition attempts to show human society through the eyes of cockroaches. Her installations feature everyday objects that have been blown up to a massive scale, offering visitors an insect's-eye view of the world.
Ono spoke with excitement about her fascination with cockroaches. "I liked that as insects they are a very resilient race. They will survive us if there is nuclear war. I just wanted them to see us, and to see what we are doing," she said. "It's metaphorical," she added.
With its depressing subject matter, the exhibition suggests that cockroaches have a glum view of humanity. The first room is filled with plaster casts of broken bodies next to a garbage bin. In the background is a photograph of a brick wall topped with barbed wire, along with some real wire added onto the image.
Another display features oversized furniture, while a photograph of a table covered with blood and broken glass is shown in the background. A white umbrella lies on the floor in a pool of fake blood. On Wednesday, TsUM's brightly dressed cleaning staff walked cautiously around the puddle, not quite sure where to direct their efforts.
The exhibition ends with military maps on tables that invite visitors to stamp them with the words "imagine peace." This is accompanied by a poster with the same slogan, as well as the words "from John and Yoko." After the news conference, the poster provided a backdrop for photographers to take pictures of Ono.
Lennon's name came up often at the news conference. When a journalist asked if he would approve of her work, Ono's reply was confident. "John loved everything I did, to the point where he was attacked for it," she said. "I am sure he would have loved this too."
"Odyssey of a Cockroach" (Odisseya Tarakana) runs to June 24 on the fourth floor of TsUM shopping center, located at 2 Ulitsa Petrovka. Metro Teatralnaya. Tel. 768-6522.
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