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Saturday, November 14, 1998 Published at 00:36 GMT


Yoko gives peace a chance in Belfast

Yoko Ono: Her first visit to Belfast

John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono is aiming to help give peace a chance as guest of Belfast's art festival.

The BBC's Mark Coles talks to Yoko Ono about art, Belfast and Lennon
Have You Seen The Horizon Lately? - her touring exhibition - has opened at the city's Ormeau Baths art gallery.

It draws on some of the key moments of her 30 years as an artist.

And as well as her pieces from the 1960s and 1970s there is new work too, including one inspired by the Northern Ireland peace process.

'There's a sparkle'

"I added one work called Water Event," she says.

"The minute they told me the show was coming to Belfast, my mind reached to Belfast and I felt there was a certain dryness in the city.

"I thought it needed some water; water is the same as love."

She hopes art can have a part in Northern Ireland's future. "It definitely is going to make a difference. It's a peaceful weapon to change the world.

"Already, there's a little kind of sparkle. The air is shining. I see that the future is very good, and I came here to celebrate it."

However, at times, the work hovers precariously between the profound and the downright absurd.

Film Number 4 is an eight-minute film of naked bottoms. And there is a giant perspex maze with a toilet in the middle - her metaphor for our passage through life.

[ image: John Lennon: His last autograph is to be auctioned soon]
John Lennon: His last autograph is to be auctioned soon
She says she is resigned to the fact that people come to see her work because of her marriage to Lennon.

But would it have been different if she had never met Lennon?

Would she have attained a greater stature as a serious artist?

Maybe, she says, but she wouldn't have changed it for the world.

"I could have had a life as an artist and I was nearly getting there when I met John.

"I was glad to leave my little mountain and just have fun - rock and roll was fun."

The exhibition coincides with the release of an anthology of John Lennon material from her own private archives.

They include rare recordings, demos, TV and radio appearances, and recordings made at home.

Like her exhibition, the new release evokes memories of the past, and putting the album together reduced her to tears at times.

'Distasteful subject'

"It was very very hard for me, at the beginning I wanted to stop doing it.

"But I was thinking as a woman who had just lost her man, and I had to look at it from a professional point of view."

Next month the album cover John Lennon autographed moments before he was shot and killed in New York in 1980 goes up for sale on the Internet.

For once, her professional composure crumples as she talks about this.

"I think that's such a distasteful subject I don't even want to know about it."

Have You Seen The Horizon Lately? runs at the Ormeau Baths Art Gallery, Belfast, until 12 December.

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