It started with my rebellious spirit.

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Yoko Ono: What is your name again?

Katarzyna Bojarska: [kataˈʐɨna]

Y.O. Beautiful, amazing, very musical.

K.B. And almost unpronounceable.

Y.O. You should insist on this spelling and the pronunciation. This is how people can become richer by this experience. My name is Yoko, so it is very easy to pronounce. But when I first went to America, many Japanese people told me: "Oh, you should be called Sara from now." And it is no good. One should insist on being called with their names. Yours is beautiful!


K.B. How has the experience of being a woman artist changed during the years of your artistic career ?


Y.O. It was probably a little bit more difficult to be a female artist at the beginning of my career; they embraced me, but at the same time they did not think too serious about my work. It is still a big challenge to be a female artist nowadays, but I think that such a challenge makes one wiser. I take it as a blessing that we still have many challenges to be faced.


K.B. Let me refer to a historical perspective. In the face of the 40th anniversary of 1968, and the fact that the 60s are now being re-considered and re-flected upon (both in Poland and abroad), how do you perceive the legacy of that time?

Actually nearly all these "revolutions" (emancipatory discourses) have found their realisation in your art, which of them still seem crucial from today's perspective? I mean here both the historical and art historical context.


Y.O. Well, the 60s. yes, but I was also thinking about another historical perspective and the Polish artist Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, for me he is a very unique artist. And the fact that he committed a suicide at the beginning of the Second World War when the Germans were invading from one side, and the Russians from the other. In my opinion his attitude nearly symbolises the pain and the suffering this country went through. Poland is a small country, the one that always has to think of how to deal with the big countries. Same can actually be said about Japan, so I feel very close to your country in a sense. Both of them need more wisdom than big countries to assure their own existence.

And talking about the 60s. I do not think we really are in a different situation nowadays. We tried to stop the war then (it was not just us, but also many, many people) and finally it stopped. Maybe it would have stopped anyway, I do not know. But what is certain is that it stopped because many people objected to it. Nowadays, I think these wars going on out there are either going to stop because we are objecting to them, or it will just continue and we will all die together in a kind of global war. But I hope that we can survive. I am really hopeful about that.


K.B. Well in that case is art in these countries you are talking about in a more difficult and complex situation? Is the task greater in a sense?


Y.O. Definitely so. Art needs to be granted a place there to change the situation, it is very important, no doubt about that.


K.B. Some of your projects, including these presented here, have been re-exectuted for many years now. Do you like seeing them change? Would you say change is the constitutive element of your art?


Y.O. I actually love that element of change. Even if you created a statue of bronze, it is going to change anyway. Even if you said you did not want it to change, and want it to stay eternally like that. Even then the soldiers might come and break it, or the pigeons will defecate on it, and this just keeps on changing. But this is about making a positive change, to make change a positive thing. Instead of "please do not change it". Change it!


K.B. Is this change both fascinating and disappointing?


Y.O. It is very exciting, because it just means that the piece is not finished. It is in a way endless. This is an endless change, and there are people participating in it, so it is not just my work, it is a work of so many people.


K.B. Are you not afraid of losing control over your work?


Y.O. Yes, by doing what I do, you lose control anyway. It is a gamble. And it could be that somebody just comes in and tries to destroy it or something but there will always be people who want to destroy anyway.


K.B. I meant more the loss of control over the meaning of the work, of the initial plan that I assume you have about each and every of your works.


Y.O. Yes, I have a plan, but then it is like beginning of a conversation. And it becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue. Even if the sense is totally lost, the instruction survives. And the instruction is the concept, which means the concept survives and this is the victory of art. The concept is always there and people can pick up the concept and then make something out of it.


K.B. Your work seems to be very much about the dialectics of disillusionment and expectation, both on the part of the artist and the viewer. You tend to invert the artist-viewer (power) relation, and place yourself as if on the other side. What is then your experience as the recipient?


Y.O. You see I have not thought about myself as being a recipient, I am the one who opens the door for the creativity of others and I feel very blessed about that. It is just this nice feeling that it was me who opened the door.


K.B. Is it not unusual for the artist nowadays to be so generous?


Y.O. You see it started with my rebellious spirit. I wanted to rebel against the norms of the art world. Artists, every artist actually, do not want other people to interfere with or change their work. "I did this that way and stay away from it, do not touch it!" And I thought, o.k. I am going to do exactly the opposite.


K.B. Would you say this was also a political decision? Has the choice of this dialogic structure been a political choice.


Y.O. I am convinced all works are political. In the sense, that when it does not say anything, it is a political statement. But also when it says something tacky, well it is a political statement too. We cannot escape from being political while being artists. We (and not only us) are social beings, each one of us, so what we do deals with the world, directly!


K.B. What kind of meaning has a choice of medium, and also a refusal to stick to just one of them for you?


Y.O. Well, I do not have the control like that. I gave up that control. Whenever I come up with an idea, when I am inspired by a certain idea, it usually comes with a medium itself. For instance, I would think about a musical idea, and it becomes music, I think about a sculptural idea and it becomes a sculpture, tangible three-dimensional thing, and of course it might change a bit, or it might come with music as well ... it is just that. You can say that I do not have a preferred medium and that I love all media (laughter).


K.B. You once said that the viewer's mind should be a "fabricator of truth," and art, if I got it right, should be a vehicle for that truth. What should that truth be?


Y.O. I see the truth as incredible power, a truth is a portion of it, and also of energy. I am afraid however it has devaluated in this world, nowadays. People are playing games, constantly deceive themselves and it is such a waste of time, also in art. We have to get to the truth. Much depends on the spectator. The spectator can get something powerful and meaningful even from a bad work of art. He/she can get the truth out. Depends really on the person who is going to experience the art work.


K.B. Your artistic career has run as if parallel in both high and popular culture, has it been at all a productive experience? Some people tend to see this relation as very fruitful, others as destructive; some claim that the one provides tools for the critique of the other, and the other way round, how do you see it?


Y.O. I do not make a distinction like that. What is a "high culture?" Is it something that can only be understood by a minority, by certain people? Eventually I am hoping that many people would understand what I do, is it popular culture then? I believe that the work of art itself has a certain power and that is what I am more concerned about. I do not think if it becomes a work within pop culture or high culture. I do not think that way.


K.B. You wrote that the role of the artist is to "change the value of things". Have you seen any of the values changing?


Y.O. Oh yes. I think we are underestimating what is going on nowadays. Because the thing is that is really prevalent is that we need to interfere and be concerned with what this global society is going to be, but we have to take some responsibility too. We have to start to work on creating a balance to that, a balance to that horrible situation that is going on. And we are doing that. The 20th century is a huge burden and great challenge with all its traumatic and fearful histories. We all share this experience in many ways and I think that the younger generation has this experience in their body, be it literally or metaphorically, so we cannot escape from it. But it is not a very negative thing, because through that we know about life more. Being an artist, working in any medium, or being a human being you have to realise that whatever you do, counts.