February 18th happens to be Yoko Ono’s birthday, and the last couple years have seen a resurgence of relevance for and appreciation for the artist, performer and one of the most iconic figures in rock and roll history. For as long as there have been artists, there have been narratives which dictates who assumes the role of artist and who assumes the role of muse, but Oko exploded those categories at the height of her relationship with John Lennon with her creativity, energy and totally unique mind. Recently, a team of famous musicians — Death Cab for Cutie, David Byrne and the Flaming Lips among them — collaborated on a cover album of Ono’s songs. But there are other examples of reassessment to be found.
At the height of the pandemic, Ono was called upon to use her unique brand of linguistic artistry to bring comfort to the masses. She created two 24-by-26-foot sized banners to be draped over the Metropolitan Museum of Art in order to coincide with the museum’s reopening; the banners said “DREAM” and “TOGETHER.” After that, for Earth Day 2021, Yoko followed up the banners with “I LOVE YOU EARTH” billboards for Serpentine Gallery.
However, perhaps the most mainstream example of Yoko Ono’s output being culturally re-assessed came in the form of the recent Beatles documentary, which doused its audience with footage of the Fab Four scrambling to come up with new music towards the tail end of their time as a group. Throughout the documentary, Ono is omnipresent. She hovers around the margins of the band, always reading a newspaper or drinking tea or knitting. “From the beginning, Ono’s presence feels intentional,” Amanda Hess wrote in the New York Times.
“Her gauzy black outfit and flowing, center-parted hair lend her a tent-like appearance; it is as if she is setting up camp, carving out space in the band’s environment. The documentary’s shaggy run-time reveals Ono’s provocation in all its intensity. It’s as if she is staging a marathon performance piece, and in a way, she is.”