Wednesday, June 23, 2010

yoko, oh no!

The great thing about having your own music festival is that you can entertain ideas like programming Ono's Cut Piece. For our immediate future, this is completely not feasible. Let us all take a moment to imagine what it would be like if I performed Cut Piece--wherein the audience cuts off the performer's clothing until she/he is naked (or nearly so)--at First Lutheran Church of New Richmond. Right. It basically goes without saying that this would not be an option. However, I like the idea of programming some of Ono's works (how very conceptual of me!). Until recently, I'd been largely (though admittedly unjustifiably) an Ono naysayer, but taking an open and unbiased look at Cut Piece and the rest of her Fluxus-era oeuvre has completely turned me around. There are a few common themes running through much of her work that fit neatly with our mission statement, the most pertinent being the concept of the gift and the idea of audience participation. There is quite a bit more to say about Cut Piece and the rest of Ono's continually expanding oeuvre, for now I'll just include a video of the 1965 Carnegie Hall performance...

Notice the disturbing pace at which the piece progresses; the carelessness of the audience. There is something deeply unsettling about the performer/participant dynamic: something violent, disrespectful, and crass. Indeed, much more to say...


  1. Thanks for writing about this, even as an introduction. I have never seen this video or really thought about her on her own. I've only looked at collaborations with John Lennon. New Richmond is not yet ready for Cut Piece, though it would make a interesting piece for an outdoor concert. I think I'll suggest that to Osmo. ;)

  2. You've left the inaugural comment! I didn't mention it in this blog post, but there is some pretty incredible, multifaceted symbolism going on here. You have, obviously, the idea of the woman's body being systematically stripped bare but also the reference to survivors of the atomic bomb, their tattered clothes, etc. Of further interest is the difference between the performances in Japan and America. In the video I posted, you can really see how quickly the audience completes the task, there is an unsettling nervousness about them, as if they feel a bit guilty about their symbolic sadism. Conversely, in any picture I have seen of the 1964 Japanese performance, the audience appears to be taking great care in the task they have been given. Very interesting stuff. If you want to know more, there is a very good article by Julia Bryan-Wilson. Likely you could find it via JSTOR...or I have a copy if you want to read it.