When Yoko Ono first conceived of T.V. to See the Sky, she cataloged it, rather tongue-in-cheekily, under the heading “Some practical future and tangible plans.” Her instruction reads: “TV to see the sky: This is a TV just to see the sky. Different channels for different skies, high-up sky, low sky, etc.” In a list of quixotic ideas—including ones for “moon-music” and a “wind house”—T.V. to See the Sky reads more like a fanciful hope than a tangible plan. Now, fifty years later, the Getty Research Institute and the Feminist Center for Creative Work are collaborating with Yoko Ono to realize this artwork with the participation of institutions all over the world.
On June 21, 2021, Getty Research Institute and the Feminist Center for Creative Work will host T.V. to See the Sky, a 24-hour live video stream of the sky. Beginning at 5:42 a.m. PT, when the sun rises in Los Angeles, institutions from around the world will livestream the sky above their locations via Zoom.
You are invited to participate by registering to join the event here and to share your view of the sky with the hashtag #tvtoseethesky.
The T.V. to See the Sky event is inspired by Yoko Ono’s 1966 work Sky T.V. and its 1967 manifestation in her Lisson Gallery Show in London. Sky T.V.—a T.V. monitor displaying a live video feed of the sky above the building where it is installed—grew out of a wish to bring the sky into the gallery space and to put modern technology into conversation with nature. Decades after Ono first imagined using a video feed to harness the ubiquity and intangibility of the sky, T.V. to See the Sky will use a virtual platform to bring the sky into homes across the globe.
As a young girl fleeing Tokyo during World War II, Yoko Ono found solace and refuge in the ever-changing, yet constant presence of the sky. “That’s when I fell in love with the sky,” Ono said as part of MoMA’s To See the Sky in 2015. “Even when everything was falling apart around me, the sky was always there for me… I can never give up on life as long as the sky is there.” A symbol of hope and freedom, of connection and limitlessness, the sky has served as a wellspring of imagination and possibility for Ono and has inspired her artmaking since the beginning of her career.
From the early 1950s, Ono looked to the sky as a collaborator and a facilitator of experience. In Painting to See the Skies (1961), a work from Ono’s book Grapefruit (1964), she instructs the reader to “Drill two holes in the canvas. Hang it where you can see the sky. (Change the place of the hanging. Try both the front and the rear windows, to see if the skies are different.)”
The instructions ask the reader to imagine a kind of painting that is not to be looked at but rather something to see through. The canvas becomes a viewfinder and an access point to the natural world.
Throughout the 1960s, Ono incorporated the sky in her work as a means of fostering engagement between individuals and the world around them. In Sky Machine, for example, Ono uses the immateriality of sky as a means of questioning consumer culture. Sky Machine (1961/1966/1971), also titled Sky Dispenser, is a stainless-steel card dispenser which, when a coin is inserted, releases a small card with the word “Sky” written on the front and the date and Ono’s initials on the back. Sky Machine dispenses something that is indispensable—the sky—and sells something that no one can possess and yet belongs to everyone.
In recent years, the sky continued to fuel Ono’s imagination and serve as a clarion call for peace in her artwork. In 2008 she erected Imagine Peace Tower, a tower of light beaming into the sky, on Viðey, an island near Reykjavík, Iceland. In 2018, she created an installation in the 72nd Street subway station in New York City entitled SKY, which surrounded the throngs of daily commuters with a large mosaic of soft cumulus clouds and blue sky.
Now, in 2021, the Getty and Feminist Center for Creative Work’s T.V. to See the Sky event takes inspiration from Ono’s vision of uniting different views of the sky through modern communication technologies. During a time in which the central mandate has been to keep our distance and to isolate ourselves, T.V. to See the Sky invites people from across the world to view the sky we all share and to share the sky we all live under.
A selection of works by Yoko Ono will be on view in Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive, opening September 14, 2021.