Feminist art is a specific art form that has been dedicated to explore and examine the explicit forms of physical violence, pain and anguish experienced by women in a world dominated by the patriarchal system. Awakened to the consciousness of misogyny, women renounced their passive acceptance to social pressures and intended to show their intolerance toward the cultural frame work in which their fruit of labor denied; their expressions through art never considered important; their bodies excessively romanticized, methodically objected, and/or subject to extreme policing (feminist art 3, n. , pptx) . Through feminist art, women were encouraged to envision a more comprehensive identity for themselves. As a specific aesthetic practice, feminist art has been one of the influential factors on sexism and racism. In this paper the works of one of the renowned feminist artists Yoko Ono have been chosen for the discussion. The article explores Ono’s works with relevance to basic conceptions of feminist art. Yoko Ono, an American musician and artist, was an explorer of conceptual art and performance art.
Through her performances she wanted to stress on the point that the people have “the conviction that gender has been, and continues to be, the fundamental category of the organization of culture” (Peggy Phelan, Art & Feminism Phaidon, 2001 as cited in Feminist art 1, n. d, pptx) the pattern of which usually favors men above women. She used her performances to show disapproval against the ways in which political systems collapsed women’s lives, aspirations and dreams (Feminist art 1, n. d, pptx). As a feminist artist, she made art work that was more inclusive of women.
In one of her performances, titled as ‘cut piece’, she sat passively on the stage and invited audience members to approach her and to cut off her clothing until she was almost naked (cage-Ono 1, n. d, pptx). This performance enabled the audience to investigate the possibilities of victimization and to instigate a medium of expression for their endurance. Since “creation was the highest form of human activity, and art was its essence” (Marcus, 2003), she proved through her performances such as the ‘cut piece’, that a woman can establish her own existence through her conscious creation (Marcus, 2003).
Ono took opportunity to utilize art as an arena for an inquiry into personal revision. She made a lot of experimental films in which she tried replicating the structures of victimization and sexual harassment that haunt the woman in the patriarchal system (Feminist art 1, n. d, pptx). In one of the experimental films named ‘Fly Piece’ show a naked woman fast asleep. A fly moves all over her body making unbearable noise all the way. Two inferences can be drawn from this work of art.
The first one, the fly represents the male dominated society which perceives woman’s body only as an instrument of physical pleasure and ignores the possibility a soul residing inside the body. The second one is the incessant noise that the fly makes through which we can understand the constant troubles and ordeals the woman has to undergo in order for her to simply exist. Ono’s conceptual work on feminism can be found in her book entitled ‘grape fruit’ which include surreal instructions. Many of the instructions from the book were enacted as performances forming the basis of her art exhibitions (Cage – Ono 1, n. , pptx). As argued by Grail Marcus in his book Lipstick Traces: a secret history of the twentieth century, “any aesthetic form could illustrate the necessity” (2003),
Ono’s performances, experimental films and artworks illustrate the necessity that women should be liberated not only from the cages of the patriarchal system, but also from the women themselves who benefitted by obeying explicitly or implicitly to the structure of sexist society. They led to the conversation among audience to illuminate the more extensive patterns of discrimination (Feminist art 1, n. , pptx). Ono’s work encompasses social, political, racial and sexist issues. The figurative elements found in her works speak an intuitive language of emotions. The positivity, interactivity and the underlying humor can be experienced in her works such as ‘the ladder’ leading up to a black canvas with a magnifying glass attached, allowing the viewers to read ‘YES’ written on the canvas and ‘Painting to Hammer a Nail’ inviting gallery visitors to hammer a nail into the surface( Cage – Ono 1, n. d, pptx).
Being the wife of the popular singer John Lennon, she used their fame to promote their social ideals. Ono and Lennon open their honeymoon suit to the press to discuss and promote world peace (Cage – Ono 1, n. d, pptx). Ono’s works criticized at the visual stereotypes they portrayed women as a mother, a prostitute, or an instrument of bodily pleasure (Feminist art 2, n. d, pptx). She cultivated the art forms that had previously been considered as craft into fluent and accessible languages of seriously pointed art making.