Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit was originally published in 1964 in a special printing of five hundred copies. It was published when Ono was an up-and-coming avant-garde artist in New York City—two years before she met John Lennon and got involved in all the Beatles’ brouhaha.
As a piece of conceptual art it is breathtakingly original. It is compelling, beautiful, fun, sly, and revolutionary. Reading it, you can understand how cutting edge Ono’s work was when it was originally created. Even now, forty years later, when artists routinely perform similar work and we have become inured to the amazing, Ono’s ideas and instructions are still fresh and provocative.
This book works as inspiration for creation, zen meditation, poetry, and as actual pieces for performance but it also works as great bedside reading. Every time I pick up this book I get lost. I can read the instructions for a piece over and over and each time, it will deliver something new. Here is one of my favorites from spring 1964:
ECHO TELEPHONE PIECE
Get a telephone that only echoes back
Call every day and talk about many
I give copies of this book to people all the time as gifts and I keep it by my bed because it’s fun to read. I haven’t ever tried to do one thing in the book but when I read it I see the world differently and am reminded that my view of the world can be changed at any time, just by tilting my head.