Yoko Ono “Cut Piece”

Yoko Ono has always fascinated me from the moment I heard her LP, Fly. There was a certain intensity with that LP that rivals any kind of heavy sounding record be it then or now. The title track alone, as minimal as it is, takes advantage of the spaces in between her vocals almost, as though the song is pushing and pulling you in 1000 different places.

After hearing this record, I had to find out more about her. I knew she played a role in working with John Cage, little did I know how much of an impact her art had beyond those who just hated her due to The Beatles connection. I started to read up not only the work she’s done with other artists such as Keith Haring, La Monte Young, Nam June Paik, and Merce Cunningham. Though, Kate Millett was the one name that stood out to me. I started to research Ono’s involvement not only in Avant/Fluxus art but in Feminism as well. I came across what is my favorite piece of Ono’s, “Cut Piece”. “Cut Piece” is explained in the book YES, a book on Ono’s life and art:

“At DAIS Ono performed Cut Piece, a work that has gained iconic stature in the history of performance at for its pro feminist conceptualism. In London, as in Kyoto, Tokyo, and New York, where she had previously presented this work, Ono sat motionless on stage in traditional Japanese feminine position – knees folded beneath her- and invited members of the audience to cut a piece of her clothing away until, nearly forty minutes late she was left all but naked, her face masklike throughout. In her biographical statement of 1966, Yoko wrote:

People went on cutting the parts they do not like of me finally there was only the stone remained of me that was of me that was in me but they were still not satisfied and wanted to know what it’s like in the stone

Like many of her performances, Cut Piece is constructed around the phenomenological content of solitary actions, a concentration on the material of experience. What emerges in Ono’s work through this piece however, is a new level of physiological unveiling, an intiment and painful sensation of self that the public can encounter, watch, and feel. Cut Piece expresses an anguished interiority while offering a social commentary on the quiet violence that blinds individuals and society, the self and gender, alienation and the connectedness. ” (28).

The idea of helplessness of the woman followed by the idea that everyone  is involved in some way when it comes to oppressing women and their sexuality in public caught my attention. Furthermore, the almost violent vibe surrounded by the piece is what left a bigger impact on me, it felt as if everyone involved some how was a part of that violence, and the idea of them cutting “pieces” so freely seemed to underscore the idea that society is lax when it comes to violence on women. Ono has said that she wanted people “…to feel the environment and tension in people vibrations, the sound of fear and darkness…”, with this legendary piece, you certainly can.

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