“Imagine peace” in São Paulo

Visiting Yoko Ono’s exhibition “The sky is still blue, you know…” in São Paulo.

After my buddy Laurenz and I spent our recent weekends with getting drunk in cheap Sertanejo bars, we came to the conclusion that it can’t go on like that. Both of us felt an emptiness in our everyday lives, so we decided to start a little “culture program”.  From now on, we wanted to enjoy of São Paulo’s wide range of cultural events and activities. 

So, in a free minute at work, I started to research for a matching event and checked out what my friends were posting on Facebook. In São Paulo, everything works via Facebook and I always click on “interested”, just to not miss out on anything. After just a few minutes of browsing, I already stumbled over something interesting: Yoko Ono at Tomie Ohtake Institute… Sweet! I called my buddy Laurenz, and we agreed on checking out the opening on April 1st.


The institute is located in a high-rise building, around 15 minutes from my apartment. The tower was designed by Ruy Ohtake, the son of famous Brazilian artist Tomie Ohtake. With its shiny purple-blue facade, the building looks almost like a parody of the various,
eighties-style, business towers in São Paulo. It took a while for me to get used to this weird piece of architecture, and finally became one of my favorite buildings in São Paulo.

The exhibitions here are pretty popular, and I was surprised about not having to wait in line for an hour. I met Laurenz at the entrance, who was just asked for another photo by some elderly lady. With his ginger hair and pale white skin, he seems to be pretty exotic for a lot of people here and is being asked about where he is from all the time.
Me and Laurenz are from the same city in Germany and met by accident on a carnival party in downtown. He was pretty drunk and started to sing a German soccer chant in front of a puzzled Brazilian crowd, and we are expat buddies ever since then.

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Soon after stepping into the exhibition, we are already hit by an emotional challenge. With her first piece, Yoko Ono asks the visitors to pile up stones for moments in life that were happy or sad. Both of us are a bit perplexed and need to think for a second before grabbing the stones. While asking myself about those moments, I am surprised about how rarely I am asking myself  about what actually makes me happy and what makes me sad…

We are strolling through the room and the exhibition is already crowded with all types of people. The atmosphere is very chill and the people are excitedly chatting while interacting with Yoko Ono’s works. In the back of the room, there is a large table full of cracked porcelain, that the visitors have to glue back into whole pieces. Like a group of fifth graders, the people eagerly start to tape and glue the pieces into new shapes.
“This act is not only for fixing the people, but also for fixing the universe”, it says in the wall next to the table…

Yoko Ono lets her visitors take part in her work and always strikes a chord with her mini-experiments. What am I wishing for? What makes me think? What bothers me? With these type of questions she makes people step aside for a minute to take an objective view on their lives.

We are reaching a tree in the middle of the room, which is full of little notes, written by the visitors. People are asked to write down their biggest wish and hang it on the branches. Again, I am pondering on what to write for a minute. Maybe luck? Health? A million Euros?? I am asking Laurenz and of course he wishes our local team to be back on top of Bundesliga…

In the second part of the exhibition, Yoko Ono’s focus shifts from the individual to our society, or better, our whole civilization. An example is her world map, where people can stamp the words “imagine peace”. The Middle East, and especially Syria, is covered with the black ink. But also a lot of Brazilian cities, that are suffering from violence and crime, are marked with the slogan.

Towards the end of the exhibition, we are passing a very impressive piece about violence against women. The artwork simply consists out of reports of sexual assault by anonymous women, that are pinned on the wall. Each text describes exactly what happened and describes in detail what happened to the woman. The fact that there are loads of those papers hanging on the wall demonstrates in a shocking way how this problem is still treated in a lot of societies, namely as just cases.

Impressed by the works we have seen, we are slowly moving to the exit. The last piece is a wall full of post-its, where people are asked to write something about their mother. Before writing my message, I am standing around for a while, just reading the responses of people. As expected the messages were mostly positive and I read a lot of “Best mom in the world!!” and “My best friend!!”. But right in the middle of the all those lovely messages I am reading the word “Homofobica”, written in bold letters. It made me think about homophobia in Brazil and how difficult it probably is to be gay in this open, but also traditional society.

Satisfied about our minds nurtured with culture, we are leaving to hit the bar and enjoy the rest of the night. Through the evening I was reflecting a lot about Yoko Ono’s work and the way of delivering her message. With her simple and interactive work, she delivers interesting and controversial content without overwhelming the visitor. Her exhibition is the perfect dose of art for the weekend, whether you are an art fan or not and whoever has the chance to pass by, should definitely not miss out on it.

For more info just visit: http://imaginepeace.com/#events

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