touchimg_2413-2.jpg This review of the recent Yoko Ono “Touch Me” exhibit at the Galerie Lelong in Manhattan, is the work of two writers. Maria Logven, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, writes fiction and poetry and is a regular at art openings. Tom Weiss, a native of New York City, is the publisher of UP FRONT News and also writes some poetry. He is not a regular at art openings. Both are residents of Staten Island.
Touch me was the intimate title of Yoko Ono’s 2008 solo exhibition held at Galerie Lelong, New York. The personal nature of the show was conveyed through conceptual photography, film, portraits, and sculptures that invited viewers to participate and become not merely part of the show but also its heart. Works of different media positioned viewers at the center of the world created by Yoko Ono, the world that viewers could connect with and recognize. Touch me invited visitors to examine themselves through their relationship to this world. Point of view, both very personal and at the same time shared by others became the intangible creation that was as much part of the show as the installations that were used to produce it. By exhibiting this point of view, the show embraced the female experience. Connections or relationships were integral themes that united all elements of the show. Segmentation is the method Yoko Ono chose to highlight relationships. The exhibit was physically arranged in two somewhat separated sections. Touch me I, Touch me II, Touch me III, and Vertical Memory appeared in the large space, separated from the smaller adjacent area by a partition. The smaller area, which also contained the four screens of Ms. Ono’s Cut Piece performance, represented something of a political statement regarding mental health and freedom. Touch me I was a large canvas that covered the entire width of the gallery. The canvas had several cut-outs in which visitors were encouraged to insert their body parts and have their photographs taken with provided cameras. Then viewers could write comments on their photographs and pin them to Touch me II, a white wall forming another canvas. Inserting their body parts into the holes, participating visitors had to consider particular segments of their body that they wished to appear on a large white canvas. Was it a face, a hand, a leg, or an intimate body part some felt brave enough to expose? All the grimaces and postures became segments pinned to the second canvas. Looking at the pictures—funny, shy, cute, conservative, ugly; reading comments—silly, neutral, sharp, sordid, humorous; viewers laughed, pointed fingers, compared, and contrasted, uniting these segments into a single growing installation and becoming aware of the relationship between themselves and the multitude of others. Crowning this installation was the Sky TV, another canvas that could be filled with stars resembling the photographs of the show stars pinned to the second canvas. Touch me III consisted of female body segments. Visitors were invited to dip their index and middle fingers into a bowl of solution and touch the soft texture. Disturbing to the eye were the deformities of the body. The text on the wall explained that the sculpture was damaged and its toes were severed by rough handling. Yoko Ono decided not to restore the sculpture but left it as a comment on female experience. Viewers’ eyes connected segments into a body, while their fingers formed a connection with their own bodies both physically and mentally as they became aware of their own body parts that correspond to the ones they touched on the sculpture. Vertical Memory was a series of pictures of a male face created by combining Yoko Ono’s father, husband, and son. Concise and moving comments written under the pictures were distinct segments that united into a narrative about the passage through life from birth to death. This installation highlighted diverse relationships to various men throughout a lifetime. Segmentation continued into the adjacent gallery room with a 4-screen installation of Yoko Ono’s performance Cut Piece, filmed at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1965. The film featured Yoko Ono whose clothes were cut to pieces with scissors by regularly approaching strangers. There was a series of portraits, Memory Paintings, of women from an earlier century who, according to a gallery staffer, were inpatients of a psychiatric facility in France. At the time the facility was presumably known as an asylum. While none of the subjects were depicted as in distress, none were smiling. One was somewhat disfigured. The inner side of the partition contained the outline of a door, presumably the way out of the institution. Installations displayed in both rooms conveyed similar themes through similar methods, but taken together they demonstrated the connection of female experience through time.