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  • Apr 20, 2021

Yoko Ono Delivers a Message to the Earth

Portrait of YOKO ONO. Photo by Matthew Placek. Copyright and courtesy the artist.

Ahead of Earth Day this Thursday on April 22, London’s Serpentine Galleries and media company Clear Channel have announced that multimedia artist, song writer, and peace activist Yoko Ono’s large-scale text-based public installation I LOVE YOU EARTH (2021) will be displayed on billboards across the United Kingdom for two weeks.

A message proclaiming love to the planet and to individual homelands, as well as to “welcome the UK citizen’s return to the public space” following a nationwide Covid-19 induced lockdown, the installation is part of Serpentine’s multi-year project Back to Earth (2020– ), which aims to invite more than 60 artists, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers, and designers to address critical environmental issues.   

I LOVE YOU EARTH originated from Ono’s eponymous song from her 1985 concept album Starpeace, and was later translated into a public work, appearing now for the first time in the UK beginning on Thursday. Speaking of the work, Ono explained in a press release, saying: “There are so many of us in the world who are now awakened, ready to act to save our world. So let’s work together to save this planet . . . Love is what connects all lives on Earth.”

The text-based installation embodies Ono’s practice of eliciting public reactions and shifting perceptions via direct statements, questions, and instructions. Her conceptual approach began in the late 1950s, epitomized by the self-publication of her seminal artbook Grapefruit (1964), which is an anthology of her text-based conceptual works, with some highlighting nature’s elemental forces. 

Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Bettina Korek commented in their joint April 16 statement: “We are so delighted to be able to work with Yoko Ono again as part of our Back to Earth initiative . . . Planned before this global health crisis hit, Back to Earth could not be more urgent now as we work with artists to understand and address our relationship with the earth and everything in it.”

Other participants of the Back to Earth project include, among others, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, Indigenous Australian media group Karrabing Film Collective, students of London’s Royal College of Art’s School of Architecture studio ADS3, and artist Olafur Eliasson, whose commissioned participatory artwork Earth Perspectives (2020) launched the initiative on Earth Day in 2020.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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