How does it change the viewer’s relationship to the work?

Yoko Ono staged Cut Piece five times in her whole career. In the various iterations of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, the different context of each performance actually changed the relationship between participants and the work itself.

  In her performances in Tokyo, the work held a cathartic relationship with viewers.

Japanese audience members took out their frustrations at America by destroying Ono’s western clothing. At that time, the Japanese public resented America because of their occupation and control over Japan after WW2.

With Ono, as a Japanese woman wearing western clothes, the Japanese audience cutting her clothes off could be seen as their desire to see Japan liberated from America’s oppressive authority.

  With her performances in America, the relationship between the viewer and the artwork becomes one of voyeurism.

Yoko Ono in Cut Piece positions herself in a state of vulnerable intimacy; she gives up her identity as a person and plays into the idea of the sexual objectification of woman.

In this context, Ono’s body becomes a sexualised art object as opposed to one of political statement.

The artwork then becomes an experiment of voyeurism where the main goal of the audience interacting with the work is to indulge their voyeuristic pleasures; to see how much skin they can expose, to see how much body Ono will allow them to gawk at.

In this case, when it was staged in New York, we can see the public laughing and applauding as a man cut away at her clothes.

Cut Piece was received as an exotic striptease."
 ­–Jieun Rhee, Art Historian
  Lastly, in all her performances, the viewer’s relationship to the work changes from passive to active.

Yoko Ono’s work often exists as instructions or scores­­ – In her score for Cut Piece, Ono writes: “Cut Piece, First version for single performer: Performer sits on stage with a pair of scissors in front of him. It is announced that members of the audience may come on stage—one at a time—to cut a small piece of the performer’s clothing to take with them. Performer remains motionless throughout the piece. Piece ends at the performer’s option.”

As such, this often gives people other than the artist the opportunity to decide what happens within the duration of the work.


Let people copy or photograph your paintings. Destroy the originals.

— 1964 Spring



Leave a piece of canvas or finished 
painting on the floor or in the street.

— 1960 winter

The artist becomes a passive artist whereas the audience becomes the active body.

The relationship between the audience and the work becomes an inverted relationship of giving and taking, where the audience becomes the contributor while the artwork turns into a recipient.