September 10, 2010 / 7:48 PM / 9 years ago

Yoko Ono stages anti-violence exhibit in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Yoko Ono, whose husband John Lennon was murdered nearly 30 years ago, opened an anti-violence exhibition called “Das Gift” in Berlin on Friday.

Artist Yoko Ono slits a canvas that is part of her installation "Heal" during a preview of her exhibition "Das Gift" at the Haunch of Venison gallery in Berlin, September 10, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

“My latest installation artwork, ‘Das Gift’, asks for your participation to heal the world of violence,” the Japanese-American artist said at the opening.

“The world is full of violence and we all live in fear. I don’t like the idea of sweeping problems and fears under the rug. Let’s face it and solve it together,” she added.

The central installation at the “Haunch of Venison” gallery in central Berlin is a sculpture called “A Hole” — a piece of glass shot through by a bullet.

Encouraging visitors to take both the perspective of a victim and that of a perpetrator, the caption reads: “Go to the other side of the glass and see through the hole.”

Other installations include a forest of old German helmets each containing jigsaw-shaped pieces of “sky,” a collection of coats with bullet holes from people who were shot and a recording of screaming birds which pierces the whole gallery.

However, the exhibition is not solely focused on the German meaning of ‘Gift’ (poison), which 77-year-old Ono uses as a metaphor for violence, but also on the English meaning.

“It’s about the poison of the world which may be a ‘gift’ to us as well,” Ono said. “When you expose your memory of pain and violence and other people look at it, it becomes more positive.”

In keeping with this message, there is one room in the gallery in which visitors are only permitted to smile — in front of a camera. Photos of smiling visitors are then projected onto a wall as part of what Ono calls “a petition for peace.”

Visitors are encouraged to bring photos or letters related to their own experience of violence so that their memories can be integrated into the exhibition too.

They can also participate in the process of healing violence by mending rips and cuts in a large canvas, or by sweeping a room in which a shattered jar lies on the floor.

“You don’t just look at it; you become part of the work,” Ono said.

Writing by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato

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