Written by Callum Coogan Yoko OnoMEND PIECE, Andrea Rosen Gallery,New York City version, 1966/2015 I sat with milk glue in my hand for the first five-or-so minutes, not sure where to start. I debated whether it was more appropriate to begin with a different material, or if I was supposed to “mend” something else. I read the wall text again: “mend with wisdom, mend with love. It will mend the earth at the same time.” A semi-spiritual artist, I’ve learned to be wary of seemingly ethereal gestures in art, as these gestures tend to distract us from the intentions they wish to reveal. I spent the next few minutes realizing how this was all a trick– that the glue, rubber bands, tape, twine, thread, and shattered cups before me were there to keep my hands busy while I fought through my own pessimism. I imagined Yoko Ono herself was laughing at me from the other side of East Pender Street, and for a brief moment, I surveyed the sidewalks. (She wasn’t there.) My eyes returned to the white table where I was still seated. I looked at the long pile of broken coffee cups that stretched along the table’s surface. Like a cat with a string, I began to play. I took one broken handle, taped it to the inside of a small fraction of a saucer, which I treated as a base, and with two larger fragments flanking the sides, I made wings. Had the handle not been so long, it would have looked more like a plane than a bird. In a fleeting moment of symbolic association, notions of world peace flashed in my mind. Once I held this dove-shaped assemblage in my hand, I realized what was really happening. Mend Piece is a conceptual work of art that has lived many iterations since its inception over 50 years ago. MEND PIECE, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York City version (1966/2015), allows each participant to interact with the provided glue, rubber bands, tape, twine, thread, and shattered cups and invites them to enjoy a cup of coffee at the adjacent espresso bar afterwards. At rennie museum, visitors were also encouraged to watch a brief video montage and peruse several publications on Yoko Ono at their leisure. The overall experience created an environment in which guests started to share their sentiments with one another, traded information about their processes, and came to some kind of conclusion about what they had just experienced. In a way, their conversations became entangled with the art itself, elevating the art into an intangible, intermediary realm. Yoko OnoMEND PIECE, Andrea Rosen Gallery,New York City version, 1966/2015 A crucial member of the Fluxus Movement that flourished during the late 1960s and early 70s, Yoko Ono has always been an intermediary artist. Her art was born out of performance events that are poetic, ambiguous, and rooted in anti-art tendencies. As George Maciunas wrote in his 1963 Fluxus Manifesto, “Fluxus promotes a revolutionary flood and tide in art”. It pushes for living art and endorses democratic art: a “non-art reality to be fully grasped by all peoples”, instead of just critics, dilettantes, and professionals*. Yoko Ono’s art is a social art**. It’s an art that relies on its participants to realize concepts, which struggle to be bound by a singular object. It asks, “what will come out of us? Would there be anything?”*** By utilizing the physical act of construction as a distraction to generate cognitive action, Mend Piece provides an opportunity to self-engage, and to self-construct. While mending, each participant is reminded that they are in the presence of strangers, who, collectively, make their own individual reparations. A connection can be made between the coming together of disparate human characters, bound by the table and chairs, and the diverse materials with which they work. This entire event represents a fusion, a homogeneity, between art and life, where the act of mending oneself is reverberated by a community that mends together. Mend Piece has been described by the artist as a wish piece, “It is an attempt to create a symbiotic mending between what you are mending – maybe a broken cup – and what you wish to mend, like the world.”**** While encompassing the world-view of Wabi-Sabi, Mend Piece also borrows from kintsugi, a Japanese art in which fragments of ceramic are bonded by lacquers infused with precious metals. The underlying philosophy of kintsugi recognizes rupture and restoration as part of an object’s history and imparts a preciousness to objects that are flawed and imperfect. For Mend Piece, Ono chose to replace these precious metals with humble crafting materials. Confronted by the impossibility of repairing a cup back to its previous state, each participant is then tasked with transforming the pieces into something new. Through silent acquiescence, the process of reparation becomes an internal one, where participants view themselves, rather than the cups, as flawed, imperfect, and in need of repair. After taking part in the transformative process initiated by Yoko Ono’s Mend Piece, I learned that the pessimism I initially felt was a distraction, one that prevented me from engaging with and believing in the healing power of art. I was bewildered by the grand gesture of mending the earth with wisdom and love, a task that seemed impossible given the limited time and resources. I found myself reluctant to engage in something greater than myself. Through one on one discussions with participants as a museum attendant, I noticed that the pessimism I felt was common. More importantly, I realized that once visitors allowed the mending process to unfold, they too let go of their initial reluctance. Those who, like me, embraced the absurd and allowed humour to guide them, constructed works that reflected this attitude. The resulting objects were reminiscent of abstract faces, make-shift dreamcatchers, abstract sculptures, and even a few musical instruments. Others, who took upon themselves the daunting task of piecing together almost-perfect cups found it frustrating to excavate the pile of broken ceramics. One guest made a point to describe how this approach made her feel like a grave robber: the taping and wrapping that was needed in order to bring new life to something resulted in a kind-of Franken-cup. Yoko OnoMEND PIECE, Andrea Rosen Gallery,New York City version, 1966/2015 The gallery attendants were surprised to see how many visitors were willing to work together in their efforts to create their cups, despite differences in approach. One such group, comprised of eight total strangers, managed to work as a team to unite all of their cups with a single strand of burlap twine. Another group, split into pairs, shared their processes as well as their materials in order to make works that physically supported one another. Regardless of an individual’s ability to work in a group or their need for solitude, Mend Piece provides an opportunity to transform our inner healing potential into the living world. Life can get chaotic- at this point, what art can offer is an absence of chaos; “a vacuum through which [we] are led to a state of complete relaxation of the mind”.***** Through an exercise of reparation that is both physical and cognitive, Mend Piece offers a moment to reflect on personal manifestations. Furthermore, by asking participants to leave their mended works behind, Mend Piece encourages each of us to detach ourselves from what we considered ours, and also rejects that our mended cups have reached finality. In a brief letter, To the Wesleyan People (1966), Ono writes: “The world of construction seems to be the most tangible, and therefore final. This made me nervous. I started to wonder if it were really so. Isn’t a construction a beginning of a thing like a seed? Isn’t it a segment of a larger totality, like an elephant’s tail? Isn’t it something just about to emerge – not quite structured – never quite structured…”****** Clear your mind. Forget the past. Let go of everything as much as possible. Dispose of all the things that make you unfocused, and yes, even a little pessimistic. Imagine how that might be. *Maciunas, George. Fluxus Manifesto. 1963.**Munroe, Alexandra. “Why War? Yoko By Yoko At the Serpentine.” Yoko Ono: To the Light. Serpentine Gallery, 2012. Page 9. Print***Ono, Yoko. “To The Wesleyan People.” Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Page 860. Print.****Robinson, John. “High Concept.” The Guardian, April 23, 2005. Web.*****Ono, Yoko. “To The Wesleyan People.” Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Page 860. Print.******Ono, Yoko. “To The Wesleyan People.” Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Page 860. Print.