Two Provocative Pieces from a Dowager of the Avant-Garde
Today (Friday, June 28) and tomorrow are the last chances to experience two striking pieces of unconventional art created by Yoko Ono for the 2019 River to River Festival, presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
The first, “Add Color (Refugee Boat)” is part sculpture and part interactive installation. Housed at 203 Front Street in the South Street Seaport, the piece consists of a white row boat stranded in midst of a white room. Since the Festival opened on June 18, visitors have been invited to pick up paint brushes and markers and embellish the boat, as well as the walls and floor that surround it, with written messages.
A plaque on the wall confirms that the piece is intended to be a, “collaboration between the viewer and the artist,” inviting visitors to share their “collective opinion, hopes, and dreams related to all forms of the international refugee crises.”
The boat — without passengers and removed from the water through which it is meant to travel — at first seems useless and powerless. But in the ten days since it opened, “Add Color (Refugee Boat)” has become freighted with a rhetorical patchwork of causes and slogans from conflict zones around the world. It has also evolved (as the artist perhaps intended) into a subtle symbol of collective effort, incorporating successive contributions by large numbers of people who have never met — in the same way that America itself was built by successive generations of immigrants and refugees.
The second piece by Ms. Ono does not have an address more specific than “Lower Manhattan.” For “The Reflection Project,” she has placed outdoors, throughout the community, dozens of posters — some small enough to be easily missed, others as large as a door. Each is emblazoned with a single word or brief phrase, such as “Dream,” “Remember Love,” or “Imagine Peace,” printed in black on a white background. All are meant to provoke and give pause.
Half a dozen of these placards have been placed at locations jammed with pedestrians, such as 28 Liberty Street, the Oculus, the Fulton Center, and the South Street Seaport. An informal observation conducted by the Broadsheet earlier this week noted that approximately one passerby in ten paused briefly to ponder the messages.
According to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, this piece, “seeks to counter the relentless pace of the everyday by inviting the passerby to engage with a realm of expanded consciousness and personal reflection… By activating mundane spaces and transforming them into vehicles of mindful communication, the project seeks to perform urban acupuncture, stimulating the City’s vast nerve network, and opening channels of communication and action grounded in thought rather than impulse.”
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