Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Yoko Ono's Wish Tree at Jim Kempner Fine Art in Chelsea

My friend Yunhee took a couple really good photos of Yoko's "Wish Tree" at Kempner. 

I just learned, by the way, that Kempner also has created a very funny video series about what it's like to run a Chelsea art gallery.  www.themadnessofart.com   It's worth watching.  

To ancient societies trees held symbolic and even magical power. A tree was like a bridge between the earth and the sky. The roots of a tree penetrate deep into the earth and derive sustenance while the trunk rises and branches reach into the air. So even today a tree can be thought of as a type of bridge between the earth and the sky, or a bridge between the ‘lower’ and the ‘higher’ or our animal nature and our godly/spiritual nature.

On her website Yoko Ono explains that as a child she would go to a nearby temple and, like others, tie wishes written onto little strips of paper to a tree branch. The trees in the courtyard of the temple often held numerous of these wishes from her community. Indeed, Yoko has been facilitating the replication of this process since 1981, around the world, and she has been keeping all of the wishes that people leave on her “wish trees” for an Imagine Peace Tower. She currently has such a wish tree at Jim Kempner Fine Art in Chelsea.

When I was passing by Kempner recently, I saw a small group writing out their wishes and tying them to the tree’s branches and I was, frankly, affected by the sincerity of the act. People were earnestly hunched over or squatting on the ground scribbling onto a little sheet and then looking for space on the tree where they could hang their wishes. So although many people feel intimidated by contemporary art, or say that they don’t like modern art museums because they don’t understand what the artists are doing, Yoko has found a way to really engage people, through art, in a deep and significant manner.

By inviting people to make a wish and to place it on a tree branch, she compels the viewer/participant to really focus on what’s central to his/her life and determine whether this is as meaningful as it should be. Some people have written frivolous things, some people make political statements (I saw: “Down with the patriarchy!” written on one slip) but many people express thoughts directed to others who are hungry, homeless, impoverished, suffering injustice/cruelty or in need of some type of assistance. Of course, after making the wish, the participant is also tacitly invited to question what exactly is stopping this wish from coming true. Is it political? economic? racial? Each person is invited to reflect on the extent to which he/she can and cannot take action to make this wish a reality. Each person is, in fact, invited to begin to take action again, on whatever level, to spread peace and justice throughout his/her community.

Trees may have lost their magical power in our post-industrialized, secular world, but they still retain their symbolic power. The Wish Tree therefore represents the latent good will in all of us to wish each other goodness and prosperity, as a first step to finally bringing about a truly humane and conflict free global community. Who knows, this could be a magical process after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.