The John Lennon Imagine Peace Tower
Peace and love can sound cliché. Many cite these sentiments as naive in the face of the world’s problems, but when I experience the art of Yoko Ono, I connect with a strong knowing that peace and love are not hopeless, banal or simplistic wishes. I feel profoundly heartened.
The Imagine Peace Tower in the photograph above has been lit every year since its unveiling in 2007, between the 9th of October, John Lennon’s birthday and the 8th of December, the date of his death. It stands in Iceland, Reykjavik, on Videy Island as a symbol of a worldwide wish for peace.
Something present for me while visiting the Yoko Ono exhibition, To The Light, at the Serpentine Gallery, was a tangible sense of her love for John Lennon and an essence of the young, joyous relationship they shared together. In one of Ono’s “smile” pieces from 1968, she exhibits a portrait that moves. The video shows a slowed down shot of Lennon gradually breaking into a smile. I am drawn into this unfolding moment and can’t help but smile in response. My mind is taken to the ideal images we hold in our imaginations of loved ones, so treasured, that they become brighter with poignancy. Another piece on the same wall shows Lennon and Ono’s faces merging into one, as they playfully gaze at the camera on a blissful summer’s day.
John Lennon Smile Portrait
Their heartfelt connection, which seems to filter throughout the exhibition, informs Ono’s wish for global peace and love; their relationship capturing the magic essence of the possibility. Perhaps in union with another human being we have in some way all touched this hope.
Ono’s “smile” portrait of Lennon was the beginning of a worldwide project she is undertaking to collect an image of every smile on the planet, as a statement of human peace and unity. One can sign up to twitter #smilesfilm to become a part of her film. Below is my contribution, taken at the gallery.
My smile portrait (2012)
A facet that I find integral to the power of Ono’s art is that she looks at the brutality of the world face on, but offers hope for something more. On entering the exhibition one of the first pieces one encounters are soldiers helmets, suspended on strings. The helmets felt to me like a heartbreaking symbol of the dead and the lost. The sky jigsaw pieces inside were the possibility for a different future, a different choice, but also touched on for me, the eternal energy outside of all human struggle.
Pieces of sky
Outside the exhibition space, paper wishes hang from wish trees. These have been placed in countries across the globe for people to contribute their hopes for humanity and our world.
A wish tree outside the Serpentine Gallery
They will be buried as part of a time capsule in the ground around the base of the Imagine Peace Tower and the light will project the wishes up into the heavens. You can watch a short documentary about the tower’s making here.
A few words from Ono’s inauguration speech:
The light is a light of healing, wisdom and empowerment. Even in the moments of confusion, fear or the darkness of your souls, hold the light in your hearts and you will know that you are not alone. That we are all together. In seeing the light of peace.
The Imagine Peace Tower and Northern Lights
To the light exhibition. Yoko Ono (2012)