Cut Piece by Yoko Ono
To go straight ahead into critique Cut Piece and how it fits into the Collective Narrative, I have taken the summarize explanation of Cut Piece from the book of Art & Feminism for you to read and understand what Cut Piece is all about.
“In this performance Ono sat on a stage and invited the audience to approach her and cut away her clothing, so it gradually fell away from her body. Challenging the neutrality of the relationship between viewer and art object, Ono presented a situation in which the viewer was implicated in the potentially aggressive act of unveiling the female body, which served historically as one such ‘neutral’ and anonymous subject for art. Emphasizing the reciprocal way in which viewers and subjects become objects or each other, Cut Piece also demonstrates how viewing without responsibility has the potential to harm or even destroy the object of perception.”
Yoko Ono is an important artist in the Fluxus art movement and her work fits in the collective narrative model. I was lucky to be able to visit Yoko Ono: One Woman Show in MoMA when I was in New York 2 weeks ago.
As the idea of The Collective Narrative is about social interaction and exchanges of conversation, ideas and information, I feel Cut Piece is a good example. Cut Piece does not work just by Yoko Ono, Cut Piece needed the audience participation in order for it to happen. However, as the idea of the collective narrative is more than just audience participation, it is also about sharing and exchanging of thoughts and hearing other people voices. In this case, Cut Piece does not comply with this. I personally feel that Cut Piece has only one voice and that is Yoko Ono’s. The audience participation only makes Yoko Ono’s voice heard louder. By allowing the audience to cut her dress bit by bit, she radically critique the role of women in society. But what if the audience do not want to get involved? Will the meaning of Cut Piece change then? I think the Cut Piece was force due to the fact that this performance need an audience participation. If nobody in the audience wants to cut Yoko Ono’s dress, then I think Cut Piece won’t be discussed much today.
As I was viewing the video at MoMA, there were a few crowd looking at the video of Cut Piece being projected onto the wall. As I already knew of Cut Piece, I briefly explained it to my girlfriend who is with me. Our attention was short as we need to cover more space within a short period of time. But I think we stayed for a good 30 seconds and I feel that is good enough for one to understand what Cut Piece is all about though.
Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece reminds me of Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 where the audience are free to do whatever they want to Marina with the items that were available such as a loaded gun, knife, hammer, saw and there’s even a condom. Marina’s Rhythm 0 makes Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece seems so conservative and small though.
As audiences gets more brave with time through out both performances, things get escalated quickly. As Marina Abramovic isn’t worry about getting nude, Yoko Ono was holding her bra after an audience member cut her bra strap. This makes Yoko Ono more conservative unlike Marina. This means Yoko Ono is preventing full audience control of the performance.
In Summary, having a Collective Narrative concept in any art is important if the meaning involves other people’s participation, be it the result is exactly how one think it should be or not. Even though Cut Piece deserve some respect for its avant garde and a first of its kind during its time, Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece is actually thought provoking and it makes me wonder, what are the thoughts going through the audience mind when they are cutting Ono’s dress. Are they happy about able to keep a piece of history or are they just a representation of how men view woman as objects rather than subject.