Monday, August 6, 2012

Yes is the answer

When John Lennon first met Yoko Ono he experienced a rare moment of cosmic connection.

Invited to climb a ladder at the Indicia Gallery in London, where Ono was preparing a conceptual art exhibit, he used a magnifying glass suspended from a string to find the word “yes” inscribed in tiny writing on a canvas on the ceiling.

The installation was simple. Yet the effect of the Nov. 9, 1966 encounter was enduring, and the affirmative power of this story has held up through countless retellings and lives on, like the legend of John and Yoko, as part of our collective cultural history.

For Lennon, it was a seminal moment. From his subsequent relationship with Ono he derived fresh energy and inspiration. While distancing himself from the Beatles and all they had become, he did not move away from his music but rather toward something bigger – art as social activism.

In short, he decided to stand for something, melding his music with Ono’s talent for performance art to promote causes such as world peace via Bed-Ins in Amsterdam and Montreal.

At its best, conceptual art provokes thought, and Save the Date, an upcoming performance by Kathryn Cornelius at the District’s Corcoran Gallery of Art is already promising some mind games.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Cornelius will explore “the life cycle of marriage and divorce and the wedding ceremony’s complex mix of private emotion, public spectacle, social expectation, and state power” by getting married to, and divorced from, seven consecutive suitors – male and female – who have proposed to her online.

It's a kind of Bed-In for our age.

“With the passing of Prop 8 in California, and more recent turns in North Carolina, the looming presidential race is already teeing up the topic of marriage in its political rhetoric as ideological artillery for the coming election,” Cornelius writes on the Save the Date website, a precursor to the performance complete with “registry” and “propose to me” tabs. “What better location than the Corcoran’s liminal space, in clear-glass view of the White House, to stage a massive spectacle of the lifecycle of marriage and divorce?”

Whatever you think, Cornelius promises to make you think. I think John and Yoko would approve.

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