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Yoko Ono
Yoko OnoPhotography Julian Broad

Mend the world one pottery piece at a time at Yoko Ono’s exhibition

MEND PIECE for London is Yoko Ono’s upcoming exhibition, inviting you to participate in an act of creative self-care

Of all the life lessons we can draw from Yoko Ono’s life and work, her “mending” series is perhaps a perfect metaphor for the Japanese polymath’s unique approach to existence. Thoughtful, curious, and experimental, this idiosyncratic series of artworks invite viewers to positively engage with the present moment in a range of practical, contemplative, and transformative ways. In this instance, broken fragments of pottery are presented alongside glue, twine, tape, and scissors and Ono’s simple instructions “Mend carefully. / Think of mending the world at the same time.” Once finished, the ‘mended’ objects are then displayed on shelves in the exhibition space and their visible signs of repair become an integral element of their history.

This interactive installation, MEND PIECE for London – which so beautifully encapsulates Ono’s philosophy of mindfulness and her ongoing peace activism – will be featured at an upcoming exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery this autumn.

One of the earliest iterations of this series, “Mend Piece I”, initially appeared in London back in 1966 at her solo show at Indica Gallery. Among the other works included in the now-legendary exhibition was “Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting” which invited visitors to ascend a ladder in order to look through a spyglass. John Lennon, visiting the gallery and meeting Ono for the first time, was largely unimpressed with what he perceived as the pessimistic, intellectual “anti” posturing of conceptual art in general. Despite feeling a little foolish, Lennon dutifully climbed the ladder and peered through the magnifying glass as instructed, to be greeted by the word “YES” inscribed on the ceiling. Although this story may have become slightly apocryphal over time, it was apparently the positive, joyful nature of Ono’s vision that caught his imagination and transfigured his first meeting with the multidisciplinary artist.  

Drawing on the Japanese tradition of kintsugi – the art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with precious metals such as gold and silver – MEND PIECE for London reverberates with Ono’s life-affirming YES. Over 50 years since it was first shown, this healing, meditative artwork seems as timely and as vital as ever, inviting visitors to collaborate in a restorative, mending process. Under Ono’s direction, this simple physical process becomes a transformative tool and an act of radical healing.

Yoko Ono: MEND PIECE for London is at Whitechapel Gallery from August 25 2021 until January 2 2022