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Between a Dance and a Scream


NEW YORK— To say that Yoko Ono’s Voice Piece for Soprano is the most visible artwork in MoMA’s recent reinstallation of its contemporary art galleries is both unimpeachably accurate and totally wrong. Wrong in the sense that the piece is not visible at all; right in the sense that you can’t possibly miss it. Voice Piece for Soprano is a participatory artwork. Museum visitors are invited to take a microphone in the museum’s atrium and follow Ono’s instructions, posted a wall, to “Scream. 1. against the wind; 2. against the wall; 3. against the sky.” The resulting screams are amplified throughout the galleries.

As zeitgeisty as the piece seems (there is much to scream about these days, from the oil spill on down to Tea Party antics), Ono created it back in 1961. In the late 1950s, she and her then-husband, Japanese experimental musician Ichiyanagi Toshi, became part of the constellation of creative types around avant-garde musician John Cage, and Ono began experimenting with “instruction works” or “event scores.” She published more than 150 of them, including Voice Piece for Soprano, in her 1964 artist’s book Grapefruit.

Voice Piece isn’t the only artwork of Ono’s on view at MoMA right now. The reinstallation’s organizers — MoMA associate director, Kathy Halbreich, and curator Christophe Cherix — have also included Whisper Piece, a series of messages Ono has scribbled on the museum’s walls, and Wish Piece, which Ono has been creating in various versions since 1996, and which invites museum visitors to write their wishes on a piece of paper and place these on a tree in the sculpture garden.

Contemporary Art from the Collection runs from June 30, 2010–May 9, 2011
Voice Piece for Soprano will be presented through to November 28, 2010



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