DELHI -- Last year, India found out that its girls had reduced to 914 for every 1000 boys due to rise in sex-selective abortions. In 2001, the girls were 927. Regarded as financial and social burdens, thousands of girls are also killed after being born.
“Our Beautiful Daughters,” Yoko’s first exhibition in India organized by the Vadehra Art Gallery, confronts this crisis. An installation of casts of women’s bodies fill up a large room. They lie like mummies, haunting and compelling, in dim light. Viewers can touch the figures of different shapes and sizes. Parul Vadehra, the curator, says this piece “urges audiences to revitalize and rethink a personal connection with the contemporary conditions experienced by women."
Vadehra describes Yoko, who just turned 79, as an artist “located between East and West, between activism and art.” “Our goal is to be a vibrant art institution that brings audiences here in contact with the best of contemporary art from within and outside India,” she says.
Indian craftswomen from the organization Rangsutra have embroidered covers for the women. They were asked by the artist to “Cover our Beautiful Daughters with your embroidery of a blue sky of your memory.” In the night, the covers are placed over the casts.
The entrance to Yoko’s exhibition in Delhi is lined with “wish trees.” On white cards, folks have scribbled a continuum of thoughts from world peace to good wishes for their moms. These cards are tied to branches of green potted plants with a string.
Keeping true to Yoko’s penchant for audience participation, the exhibition also revisits her Mend Piece, first shown in 1966 in London. The audience sees bits of broken ceramic pottery laid out on the table like a jigsaw puzzle. Mending the objects is akin to performing the therapeutic act of healing by “making whole.”
Still, several Indians fail to see Yoko’s relevance to the country. “Who is she to even make news of any significance which would matter to any one? Her only credential is that she is married one of the Beatles 40 some years ago and he was killed by a crazy man in New York,” writes one commenter on the website of a prominent national daily.
Anticipating unfamiliarity with Yoko’s art and activism, the gallery also presents a parallel exhibition called “Seeds,” which showcases her work spanning five decades. It provides a context to view her newer work. There is a black-and-white video, for instance, of her “Cut Piece” performed in New York in 1965. She invites members of the audience to remove any piece of cloth from her dress. When performing this in Paris in 2003, Yoko said, “When I first performed this work in 1964, I did it with some anger and turbulence in my heart. This time I do it with love for you, for me and for the world.”
“Come and cut a piece of my clothing wherever you like the size of less than a postcard and send it to the one you love.”
In another room, there are posters from the “War is over! (if you want it)” advertising campaign done in collaboration with John Lennon during the "Bed-in for Peace" event in 1969. Among previous works is also the 1966 film that features tight frames of buttocks. People speak about their experiences being filmed walking bare-bottomed. Yoko has written that the "1960s was not only an age of achievements, but of laughter." She described the video as "like an aimless petition signed by people with their anuses."
Photos by Briana Blasko for Yoko Ono. Courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery.