Yoko Ono: Is Twitter a New Form of Fluxus?

Yoko Ono in 2010, photo courtesy of Splash News
I have always enjoyed Yoko Ono. And even while some have blamed her for the break-up of the Beatles and dislike her ongoing feud with Paul McCartney, and more recently have charged her with holding out on the release of the Beatles' music catalogue to iTunes (telling Reuter's with respect to the matter, "Don't hold your breath ... for anything."), I think she remains very much misunderstood. Pundits routinely write off Ono’s artistic contributions without much understanding about what her position in the art world was all about prior to becoming Mrs. John Lennon. Even Lennon described her as "the world's most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does."

I believe her increasing profile on Twitter, however, will do something to change that. In recent months as I have given more critical attention to the potential of social networking in my world, my level of interest in Twitter piqued when I began following Yoko Ono’s Twitter account. I had spotted her name as the only visual artist on some celebrity top-50 Twitter list next to the likes of MC Hammer, William Shatner, and the Ellen Show while web-surfing, and ended up creating an account just to follow her tweets (I was then quickly turned on to Douglas Coupland’s account and I was hooked). What I immediately began to recognize in Ono’s 140 word-or-less messages was her artistic sensibilities on keen display, taking what she had learned as a Fluxus artist and updating it to a new technological medium.

Fluxus, taken from the Latin word “to flow," refers to an international art movement that first gained in popularity through the mid to late 1960’s. Ono herself became an influential member of the movement in New York and worked closely with the likes of John Cage and Nam June Paik. One of the guiding principles of Fluxus, alluded to in the Fluxus manifesto of 1963 and later refined by Dick Higgins in a 1966 essay, was the idea of Intermedia—interdisciplinary activities that occur between genres. For Ono, her art practice has displayed this tendency with her interest in performance art and happenings. In 1964, she performed her now famous Cut Piece (see video below), a work that explored the boundaries of social interaction and the collaborative construction of art works. I see Ono’s growing popularity on Twitter as an extension of her Fluxus roots—utilizing the social framework to test those same boundaries in new and innovative ways. Her latest tweet, made just an hour before making this post reads: “We carry the joy and the guilt of being one.”

Now I am wondering if I should follow Lady Gaga on Twitter as well?......(no eye rolls please, you know who you are). You can follow me on Twitter, but I cannot claim to be as witty as Yoko.

Yoko Ono performing Cut Piece in 1965—as a total coincidence, this work was re-performed yesterday in New York at the MoMA store in SoHo (but that can be saved for another post)

Further Reading:

Concannon, Kevin. "Yoko Ono's Cut Piece: From Text to Performance and Back Again." PAJ: A Journal of Performance & Art 30.90 (2008): 81-93.

Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. "Self-Stylization and Performativity in the Work of Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama and Mariko Mori." Quarterly Review of Film & Video 27.4 (2010): 267-275.