Women's Room Review

Yoko Ono's Museum Kampa exhibit, Women's Room, defeats not only art and good taste, but plain sanity.

She has been hailed as an avant-garde icon. Someone whose work is "audacious, original and brutally honest". That I will credit her with. Whoever said that must have been an extremely rare polite critic. This one is not.

Upon entering Museum Kampa, the visitor is greeted by strips of white tape with the words "YOKO ONO" printed continuously through them, circling each wall.

You have to laugh. From a self-proclaimed "serious artist", this was nothing short of PR work of the sort made famous in the hugely successful British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, a satire on the fashion and art world.

You could easily imagine Patsy and Eddie staggering around, bottle of champagne in one hand, cigarette in the other, loudly proclaiming "Bollocks darling! Sheer bloody bollocks!" And most probably making much more derogatory comments about Ono than one would dare print here.

Enter the first exhibit and it contains a mere 60 photographs of Yoko Ono. Beautiful black-and-white snapshots they may well be, but why are they there? We are paying to see her work, not to see her or to view someone else’s work. Indeed, these are the only real photographs of any substance throughout the whole exhibition. Yoko with her signature white cap and dark sunglasses in each and every one. The same photos, only from different angles. Beside these are A4 sheets placed at varying angles, proclaiming “IMAGINE PEACE”.

But wait, it can only get worse.

In the main exhibition room, in between yet more photos of herself, she has scribbled little sentences such as: “This line is a part of a very large circle...”, “This room slowly evaporates each day...”, “This room moves at the same speed as the clouds”!

Yet, some of her work is admittedly, quite interesting and revelatory.

A Blueprint for the Sunrise (2000), her musical ensemble - and probably the most overlooked piece in her collection - reveals a lot more about Yoko Ono (“Daddy can’t touch me, mummy can’t take me”), than all the other slightly brainless creations; OK, her focus is conceptual photography and she is a master of disengagement, but just how far can conceptual be stretched until there is nothing left?

“Wouldn’t it be nice to be a star?” she sings, which is mixed and repeated to great effect. And you could begin to feel quite sorry for her. Life, as we know only too well, has not been the kindest to poor Yoko.

She is not poor, but a very clever woman. One who has made the most of her ruffled past, and succeeded on a minimal amount of talent, but a lot of determination. Artists aren’t called controversial for nothing. Think Tracey Emin, Turner Prize or Saatchi Gallery.

However, the more you listen to her music, the more it sounds like a cunning and manipulative play for sympathy and understanding, rather than an honest cry from a wounded soul, which, of course, is what she wants us to think.

The exhibition ends with four films – Fly, Rape, Cut Piece and Freedom. Rape is the longest piece of film, lasting 77 minutes. It consists of a woman lying motionless on a bed, as flies walk all over her naked body.

The most striking thing about the film is the woman’s dark pubic hair and large underarm growth. The picture on the screen remains the same throughout, apart from the movement of the flies, accompanied by the screams/groans/moans of the woman being raped. It is difficult to interpret accurately .

From the adjoining room it sounded like a monkey being strangled. Hardly avant-garde and, judging by the quick departure of two other visitors, slightly disturbing.

“Flies supplied by New York City, 1970”. The End.

Go, and you will leave 120 Kč lighter and with a curious sense of happiness; for here is a woman that puts Stanley Kubrick on a par with Forrest Gump.

Women's Room is at Museum Kampa in Kampa Park. More info...

The show ends on Febraury 29th.

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