Television: John Lennon and Yoko Ono on Frost On Saturday

Frost: Now, what have we got here? You were pointing at this as you were explaining that Yoko, tell us about this, it’s what – a broken cup, right?

Ono: It’s just an example. This is supposed to be a sculpture, and it’s a broken cup, an unfinished sculpture that will be just made by people just gradually rebuilding it into a cup.

Frost: Is the sculpture then, the broken cup? or the way people rebuild it with the glue?

Lennon: The thing is, there’s no such thing as sculpture or art or anything, it’s just a bit of – it’s just words, you know, and actually saying everything is art. We’re all art, art is just a tag, like a journalist’s tag, but artists believe it. But sculpture is anything you care to name. This is sculpture: us sitting here, this is a happening, we are here, this is art, but yeah, if you gave that to a child, he wouldn’t have any preconceived ideas, so you wouldn’t have to say ‘This is sculpture’ or ‘This is a broken cup’, you’d say ‘There’s that – there’s glue, what do you do? You stick it together’.

Ono: In reply to your question I think that people say that this is just a process of things, everything is just a process.

Frost: Can you show us, we haven’t got the You Are Here canvas because it’s locked up in a cupboard and no-one could get at it, but can we bring on the blackboard and the other thing?

Lennon: It’s better to explain why it was on canvass first. The point was I had this idea that, like the street maps or things that say, er, where a place is, You Are Here, you know – on those street map things. You seen ’em?…Right, so I thought, oh that would be a good idea to have a show where you actually have the street map inside the gallery, and you went in and saw that.

So I thought, now if I did that, er, and seeing as I’d never done it before and they’ve all got preconceived ideas about what I am, I thought ‘ha ha, I’ll put it on canvass and that makes it art’ – brackets or inverted commas – you know. I mean, it is or it isn’t, however you like it. So I put it on a big white round canvass and just had You Are Here that I’d written on it, and er, the point of the show was that people who went through various things to get to the thing – to the canvas – and then they reacted to it. And some of them thought just ‘Oh yeah’, no hang up, ‘You Are Here’, and they got a badge.

I had a hat saying ‘For the artist’ which they put money in or chewing gum or anything, all sorts of rubbish and that, anything – I didn’t mind, and then they took a badge. But I filmed them with a secret Candid Camera team and sometimes they’d go up and sort of, go up and take a badge and look around, and then they’d take a handful. And there was all these amazing reactions, and the whole point of the show was, that was the art, that was the happening, these people reacting to it. Some people were just sort of, less hung up and sort of, accept it ‘oh, You Are Here. Oh, good joke,’ or ‘So what?’

Frost: And do you want people to, er, look and receive things and just look at this sort of thing, or do you want them to really get involved?

Lennon: Well, they do participate as soon as they look at it, you see. Now, if you show it to a child he’ll either take no notice of it, because he knows he’s here, or he’ll just say ‘You Are Here’, you know, it’s just written on the wall or in the toilet. And the film that you’re gonna show is the same thing. If you show a child a film, there’s no preconceived ideas about what a film should be, but most adults have all this preconception about what everything is.

Frost: Yes. Can we show in that illustration, show the film now, without saying anything in advance about it?

Lennon: Yes, sure, sure.

Frost: Let’s just watch a bit of this film, and then let’s see what your [audience] reactions are too it.

[A clip from Smile is shown.]

Frost: Now, it’s still going on isn’t it?

Lennon: Well it goes on for an hour. But the point is, er, it’s her film but I’ll explain what I think about it. The point is that it’s a portrait! You know, and if Renoir or any of those people had just made a portrait of somebody’s face that never moves and just hangs on the wall, you accept it, ’cause it’s er, people are used to that. But this is a portrait on film.

Ono: But not only that but…

Lennon: OK, let me just say that bit…

Ono: Oh, OK.

Lennon: So there’s three minutes of film that was taken and spaced out to last an hour. Very slow motion. So in an hour, in three minutes a lot happens to somebody’s face, anybody’s face. A lot of amazing things happen, there’s a lot of movement that you never realise goes on, and in this you’ve got three minutes under a microscope to examine anybody’s face, your own – you can’t be bothered sitting there for an hour looking at your own face – and amazing things happen, your whole head changes shape, your nose is moving, every part of you is moving all the time which is known, you’re not aware of this in every day life. But in that film you can see it, and when we showed it to her daughter, she just said ‘Oh look, his nose is moving’.

Ono: ‘John has a funny nose.’

Lennon: Show it to somebody else and they’ll think ‘A film about a face for an hour? Oh yeah, Sure, sure,’ like that.

Ono: But it’s not just the face. As John said, it’s moving, and it’s just that wavelength coming into you, it’s like a vibration.

Frost: What do you want? I mean – now, we only saw one minute there of a 90 minute film, right? Er, but but, what do you want our reaction to be?

Ono: Well, I don’t expect any particular reaction, except that I was thinking as a portrait, well, if you have a portrait in your house or something that you always will think that it’s there – and it’s in your mind, so to speak, and one day you see the portrait again and it suddenly winks at you – and it sort of, gives you a message, this film goes on like that, but at one point, John just sort of smiles – and that’s the vibration.

Last updated: 23 August 2016
Recording, mixing: Back In The USSR
US single release: Hey Jude
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