Picking up the pieces

We will rebuild. Even as the dust still settled over the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers, no one doubted it.

That sentiment, echoed so many times afterward, was both a declaration of defiance and a call for healing. Yoko Ono has revived one of her 1960s interactive works toward achieving the latter task. The original “Mend Piece for John” was created in 1966. It consisted of a broken cup, some glue and string. The concept behind the piece was that through the act of mending the cup, the participant would also mend himself.

But the project has since morphed into more-contemporary incarnations. The current exhibit “is more of a community piece,” explains Sarah Pike, manager of the Asheville Area Arts Council’s Front Gallery. The Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts has been approached to donate some pottery, and local artists have been invited to start things off.

“Hopefully, the general public will join in,” she says. “Mending Peace for the World for Black Mountain College” runs through September 30. Broken or defective pottery donated from local artists and from around the world are placed on a round table along with glue, string and tape. Participants are encouraged to mend the pottery while reflecting on the process as a healing act.

“People can bring anything that needs healing,” says Alice Sebrell, a spokesperson for the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center. “Mending Peace” is an auxiliary event to BMCMAC’s Under the Influence festival, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the experimental “Theater Piece No. 1” by the late John Cage. Cage invited people to the College in 1952 to participate in the first such “Happening,” giving them no instructions, only a time to show up. Participants did their own things; they played music, danced, read poetry and created whatever else they felt like.

When the directors of BMCMAC discussed who should be invited to solemnize that event, “Yoko Ono was one of the first who came to mind,” says Sebrell. “In fairly short order she responded.”

As a friend of Cage, Ono was familiar with Black Mountain College and its legacy (closed in 1956, the experimental local school sheltered such luminaries as poet Charles Olson, who taught there, and painter Willem de Kooning). She offered “Mending Peace” to the BMCMAC for the Cage anniversary, which will be remembered in events happening throughout September, culminating in the four-day festival (Sept. 19-22).

Through a partnership with the AAAC, a special mending event will take place the morning of Sept. 11 at the Council’s Front Gallery. Community leaders and the general public are invited to participate in the mending process, beginning at 8:46 a.m. and ending at 10:28 a.m. — the time period coincides with the moment of American Flight 11’s collision with the World Trade Center’s North Tower to the time of the building’s collapse.

“It’s not a passive event like sitting and praying or watching [memorial coverage] on TV,” Sebrell points out. “This is a great way to remember what happened and be part of a healing.”

Ono began touring with “Mending” projects last October, with the idea of stimulating the healing process in a broken world. The first “Mending” happened in New York City at Judson’s Memorial Church. It has also taken place in Barcelona and Cambridge, MA, and will travel throughout the world. “I believe it’s going to be very powerful,” says Sebrell.

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