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Yoko Ono and Her Sixteen-Track Voice

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The childlike gestures and awarenesses reveal themselves in Yoko's ways of seeing everything: "An intensity of a wink is: two cars smashed head on./A storm turned into a breeze./A water drop from a loose faucet" ("Wink Talk"). And in her "Touch Poem," Yoko writes: "Give birth to a child/See the world through its eye/Let it touch everything possible/and leave its fingermark there/in place of a signature."

"Sometimes," Yoko says, "I think that some of the things I've done could have been done by John, and vice versa." Together they have collaborated on a number of lovely films (distributed in the US by Film Makers' Cooperative) which, among other things, seem to be about seeing things as if for the first time – the "love that has no past."

§ Two Virgins shows both of their faces superimposed, separating and merging, revealing love to be the interpenetration of anima and animus; and this scene is followed by a slow motion kiss of the lovers limned against the sky. "When we met," Yoko recalls, "we were so involved with each other that we couldn't see anybody around us. We were just looking at each other and sometimes noticed that people were around us. We didn't have time or space to consider what we looked like to others. We were really in a dream."

§ Apotheosis is filmed by a camera floating gently upwards in a balloon, rising above a snowy English village, the sounds of dogs barking carried up by the snow fading into the sounds of the wind, as the camera watches the white radiant particles of clouds vibrating on the screen – and then suddenly looks up to the sun.

§ Up Your Legs Forever, made in New York in one day, shows 331 pairs of legs (those of New York artists, friends of John's and Yoko's, and their friends, all legs donated for one dollar and Peace) shot from the toes up to the thigh. The film forces you to see how different one leg is from its partner and how leg dimples, moles, and scratches suggest idiosyncratic leg personalities, while at the same time the movie exorcises almost anyone's fetishist leg fantasy forever. "When we're counted as legs," Yoko says, "we're very ordinary. We wanted to show we have peaceful legs. And legs are peaceful."

§ Rape wonders what would happen if a person were followed by a camera to distraction. The camera tracks a German girl through a cemetery, down London streets, into a fiat where she runs around screaming "Why me?" At the Elgin Theater, the audience not only waited angrily for the "real" rape, which never came, but also felt raped by the film's progression as they screamed and called for help, hoping the projector would breakdown.

§ Number Five has John smiling for one hour. His smile was shot with a high speed camera (20,000 frames per minute) often used to film rockets. A three-minute smile was then slowed down to its present length. "It originally started out," John says, "that Yoko wanted a million people all over the world to to send in a snapshot of themselves smiling, and then it got down to lots of people smiling, and then maybe one or two and then me smiling as a symbol of today smiling. And so it's me smiling, and that's the hang-up of course because it's me again. But I mean they've got to see it someday – it's only me. The idea of the film won't be dug for another fifty or a hundred years probably. That's what it's all about. I just happen to be that face."

§ The Fly, John's and Yoko's most recent film made in New York in two days, shows a naked woman lying motionless on her back as one fly at a time settles on different parts of her body to go about its business – mainly legs tasting and feeling. Some of the flies were stunned with CO2, having failed to keep calm on sugar water. The woman's catatonia remains a mystery.

It's as if Walt Disney and Jean-Marie Straub had collaborated, for the film's magnified focus on what a fly does if you don't brush it off is shot in long takes with the camera obliquely observing the transformed landscape of a mountainous breast, a hillock nipple, or a desert of fingers on which a fly stands, legs investigating the scene.

At the film's conclusion, you see a long shot of the entire body, seven flies standing here and there, as if on a dead Christ. And this amazing Bunuellian shot implies the idea of the fly as a metaphor for pain. The flies finally fly away, and we're left with a shot through the window of a New York Bowery roof, veiled in a diaphanous blue light like St. Elmo's fire, suggesting the beauty of seeing things anew.

"The idea of the film came to me," Yoko says, "when I thought about that joke where someone says to a man: 'Did you notice that woman's hat?' and he's looking at her bosom instead. I wondered how many people would look at the fly or at the body. I tried when filming to accept all the things that showed up, but at the same time tried not to make the film too dramatic. It would have been very easy for me to have made it become pornographic, and I didn't want that. Each shot had to project more than a pretty image of a body, so it was used more as an abstract line."

Yoko's voice on The Fly's soundtrack is a subtle rhythmic embodiment of the fly's excursions – intersected by John's forward and backward guitar track. And these amazing sounds reveal again those childlike gestures and archaic resonances. For it is most obviously in what John calls her "16-track voice" that Yoko displays her extraordinary art. It is the true distillation of her sens plus pur, a kind of psychophysical instrument of amazing disparateness, richness, and range. Yoko's voice is a kind of vocal tachysto-scope (the shuttered magic lantern that projects images for a thousandth of a second), immediately and almost subliminally communicating glittering movements of the smallest elements of sound, reminding you of the screams, wails, laughter, groans, caterwauls of both a primordial, pre-birth, pre-mammalian past, as well as of the fogged-over painted immedicacy of childhood.

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