Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

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Friday, 6 November 2009

Duke Street: Robert Fraser Gallery, 1 July - 3 August 1968; you are here.


Having just moved out (and not for the last time) of Kenwood, John and Yoko held one of their first media events at the Robert Fraser Gallery, then situated at 69 Duke Street. The newly public (not to mention pubic) pair marked the opening of John's exhibition, titled "you are here", by releasing, in the spirit of "Happening", 365 helium-filled balloons with the words, "I declare these balloons high":


Tags with the name of the exhibition were attached to the balloons. These also invited finders to write c/o the gallery, and any who did so got a letter and a badge from John. (Apparently replies from "ballooners" ranged from all good wishes to racist abuse directed at Yoko). John got the idea for the balloons from a childhood memory - he had found something similar as a boy:


The exhibition itself fitted right in with much of John's artistic endeavour that summer, being whimsy tinged with a hint of something sinister; a large white disc inscribed in the centre with a tiny "you are here", and a collection of charity boxes, seeking money for victims of polio, homeless canines etc. Jars of free badges with the name of the exhibition were also laid out.
The gallery was on two levels, with a small spiral staircase beside the front door leading down to the basement. For John's exhibition, the upper floor was (apparently) largely empty, with the exhibits displayed on the lower level.
However, the real point of the exhibition was hidden: Secret cameras filmed the reaction of attendees, with the resulting footage intended to form a film (never completed, though John had clearly viewed the footage when, on the Frost show in August, he humorously discussed the covert grabbing of as many badges as possible by certain exhibition-goers).
John also put out a hat, looking for a little personal charity:


Some students from Hornsey Art College donated a rusty bicycle, with a sarcastic note stating that John had clearly forgotten to include it; naturally, out on display the bike went, together with an example of John's footwear and the words "I take my shoes off to you":


A media frenzy ensued on opening day. Journalists were more interested in John's new paramour than any art. Kenneth Anger, the underground film maker, occultist and associate of Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil, appeared with sparklers and used them to pop as many balloons as he could.
Other more sympathetic souls were also in attendance, including the man who had introduced John and Yoko in the first place, John Dunbar, seen here on the right. He and Robert Fraser were, of course, frequent visitors at Kenwood.


The building and space which housed the gallery are still there, though now, inevitably, being used for something much more prosaic.
It's probably also worth remembering that at this point, according to the orthodox view, John & Yoko had only been together for little over a month. In that time they had produced Two Virgins (film & album), Film No 5 (Smile), collated the Four Thoughts and you are here exhibitions, done (for want of a better word) the Acorn Event at Coventry Cathedral, and completed Revolution 9. John had also worked on other White Album tracks (most notably the recently "released" (and utterly wonderful) long-form Revolution 1), and contributed to the theatrical adaptation of In His Own Write.
Plus they moved house.

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