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Yoko Ono’s work belongs to Fluxus’ anti-spectacular tendancy, extolling daily life in its most trivial and fleeting manifestations by concentrating on random insignificant events. “Do it yourself” pieces such as Painting to Hammer a Nail in and Cleaning Piece (both 1961) demand active participation from the viewer; a similar interactivity is implied in her films.
Ono’s attitude of non-intervention, of “let it be” and of receptiveness, can be seen in her contemplative films Eye Blink (fluxfilm #9 and 15) and One (fluxfilm #14), these continuous single shorts, drawn out in extreme slow-motion by Peter Moore’s high-speed camera. Almost nothing happens in Yoko Ono’s films, only the passing of a slice of life seen through a sometimes “objective,” sometimes voyeuristic eye: the camera eye. Action, if any, happens in the prolonged progress of a breif and ordinary moment, such as an eye blink, yet the picture emanates a sensual energy. This filmed moment elucidates, with the precision of a scientific film, the elusive details of daily life, invisible to the naked eye. Watching these two films is like contemplating a painting or a sculpture imperceptibly animated in progressive motion. Eye Blink and One are blocks of time approaching stasis, probing the notion of film time by decelerating a fleeting gesture using Moore’s industrial camera.
In Eye Blink we face an eye which opens and stares back at us. Yoko Ono establishes a spectacular relationship between viewer’s eye, thereby confronting it with an image of its own visual activity.
Free from all narrative constraints, Yoko Ono’s film shows us ourselves. It makes us aware of our position and activity as a viewer and calls attention to our general passivity. InRape (1968), a film not included in this program, Ono started from a similar conceptual proposition: “choose a person at random, follow her and film her.” Her cameraman is thereby implicated as predator while the act of filming transgresses and violates the victim’s private space; the viewer is then solicited as voyeur.
Yoko Ono’s films take after her other works, reducible to simple propositions combining Zen Buddist haiku poems with conceptual art (a term, legend would have it, she created). The active contemplation of the gesture she filmed becomes both the work’s subject and object. She shows us that focusing on simple actions makes them captivating, and that paying attention to apparently inconsequential things can change our perception of the world.