Beatriz Colomina

John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the 24/7 Bed performance

What do we do in bed today, and what has become of this horizontal architecture in our liquid-work society? From Domus 1026, July/August 2018

You can read the complete essay on Domus July/August 2018 issue.

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono married secretly in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969, the ceremony lasted only three minutes. But these minutes, so elaborately protected, were in fact the end of privacy. They promptly invited a global audience into their honeymoon bed, a weeklong Bed-In for Peace held from 25 to 31 March in room 902 of the Amsterdam Hilton International Hotel. Two of the most public people in the world, they put themselves in a literal fish bowl, the glass box of the Hilton, and created a site for work beyond paid labour. But the work day didn’t end at 9pm. John and Yoko repeatedly declared that they wanted to conceive a baby during that week. The bed is both protest site and factory for baby production: a fucktory. (1)

John and Yoko didn’t simply occupy the room. They redesigned it as a media stage set with a particular image in mind. They were in every sense the architects of that image. It is not by chance that the published images look so similar; practically only one angle was possible. They had emptied the usual Hilton room, removing all the furniture, artwork and decoration, leaving only the king-size bed, which they deliberately placed against the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, with a panoramic view onto the city of Amsterdam. With their backs to the window, they faced inside the room in a kind of Loosian move. (2) Their bodies against the light – in an all-white background of white walls, white sheets, white pyjamas, and white flowers – seemed to fly above Amsterdam.

John and Yoko didn’t simply occupy the room. They redesigned it as a media stage set with a particular image in mind. They were in every sense the architects of that image.

The hotel is in the city, but detached, a transparent oasis. But what is outside? The background is Amsterdam, at the time the centre of Europe’s 1960s cultural and sexual revolution, of experimentation with sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, political activism and protest – against the Vietnam war, the local government and housing shortages; for equal rights, abortion and even alternative forms of transportation.

The 24/7 bed of John Lennon and Yoko Ono anticipates thus the working bed of today. In what is probably now a conservative estimate, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that 80 percent of young New York City professionals work regularly from bed. The fantasy of the home office has given way to the reality of the bed office. The very meaning of the word “office” has been transformed. Millions of dispersed beds are taking over from concentrated office buildings. The boudoir is defeating the tower. Networked electronic technologies have removed any limit to what can be done in bed. But how did we get here? [...]

(1):
I recently reconstructed the scene of the Amsterdam Hilton Bed-In in detail within the Dutch pavilion curated by Marina Otero Verzier for the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture and, in the spirit of the original event, did a marathon of interviews in bed on the question of beds and post-labour with Madelon Vriesendorp, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Odile Decq, Liz Diller, Andres Jaque, Winy Maas etc.
(2):
Adolf Loos always placed the couch against the window with the occupants facing the interior and turned into a silhouette against the light for those entering the room. See Beatriz Colomina, Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media, MIT press, Cambridge (MA) 1994

Sodales purus vel vero possimus temporibus venenatis

Sodales purus vel vero possimus temporibus venenatis

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