Friday, January 20, 2017


by Madeline Bocaro

Scissors are a useful tool, but rarely are they used in the name of art. There are some notable instances; Wallace Berman, 1950s (Assemblage), Brion Gysin, 1960s (Collage) William Burroughs, 1970s (Literature), shadowed by David Bowie (Lyrics), Edward Scissorhands, 1980s (Landscaping) and of course, Yoko Ono. 

Yoko had originally written Cut Piece as a conceptual score in 1962 with options (either spontaneous or circumstantial), in the same respect as John Cage’s infamous “4’ 33” score. Cut Piece eventually became a recurring live event, performed by Yoko herself, and by others.

Yoko had originally written Cut Piece as a conceptual score in 1962 with options (either spontaneous or circumstantial), in the same respect as John Cage's infamous "4' 33" score. Cut Piece eventually became a recurring live event, performed by Yoko herself, and by others.

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.

Cut Piece  (Grapefruit)
Performer sits on stage with a pair of scissors placed in front of her and asking the audience to come up on the stage, one by one, and cut a portion of her clothing (anywhere they like) and take it. The performer, however, does not have to be a woman.

Yoko reverses the role of the artist projecting his or her vision. Cut Piece allows the audience their own interpretation via participation - to physically take a piece from the work – essentially the cloak of the artist – who is completely unmasked and vulnerable.

“…the author's ego is contained in traditional works. It means to thrust ego upon the audience. 
I have always wanted to produce work without such ego by standing at a spiritual state of perfect selflessness…
My feelings were, to not thrust the thing I chose upon others, and no matter what it is, please take away the part you like, and please take the part you like with you by cutting it off. "
– y.o. - Tada no Atashi (Just Me!) 1986

For each performance of Cut Piece, Yoko sacrificed her best clothing. On one occasion she wore a black dress from London's famous Biba boutique. Wearing good clothing elevated the importance of the work.

"In those days, I didn't have many clothes, and I made sure to I pick the one I loved.

– Yoko Ono, Twitter

The Maysles brothers captured Yoko's March 1965 Carnegie Recital Hall performance of Cut Piece on film. Yoko sits in the polite Japanese position seiza (assumed in formal settings), with her legs folded beneath her. One by one, audience members gingerly approach the stage. At the start, the scissors are ritualistically laid out on the floor, glistening in the dim light like a Samurai sword in front of the kneeling, sacrificial artist. The stage is set; artist, viewers and a dangerous sharp object. Anything can happen. The first person picks up the scissor and selects a preferred part of Yoko's clothing to snip. The scissors are taken by the next person, and the unmasking continues as the audience performs the strip tease. There is nervousness, titillation and giggling.

Yoko has the opposing perspective. Blades come moving toward her, dangerously close to her face. Which garment will be cut away next? There goes the bra strap. She sees it from the utmost center.

"The audience was quiet and still, and I felt that everyone was holding their breath. While I was doing it, I was staring into space. I felt kind of like I was praying. I also felt that I was willingly sacrificing myself."

Yoko looks uneasy, yet determined and prepared to take whatever comes, knowing that she is giving her all. The art becomes (inter)action. The unpredictability of events is nerve wracking. – the situation could become potentially aggressive or violent. But in most instances, things proceed calmly (except during the first performance in Kyoto, when a man raised the scissors in threat, but then calmly cut a piece of Yoko's dress). The artist, the clothing and the scissors are props for the audience's performance.

"Instead of giving the audience what the artist chooses to give, the artist gives what the audience chooses to take. That is to say, you cut and take whatever part you want; that was my feeling about its purpose. I went onto the stage wearing the best suit I had. To think that it would be OK to use the cheapest clothes because it was going to be cut anyway would be wrong; it's against my intentions. I was poor at the time, and it was hard. This event I repeated in several different places, and my wardrobe got smaller and smaller. However, when I sat on stage in front of the audience, I felt that this was my genuine contribution. This is how I really felt."  –  y.o. Just Me!  1974

The ultimate inspiration for Cut Piece was a famous story told to Yoko as a child about the selflessness of Buddha.

In 1967, Yoko stated in a London article, "…It was a kind of criticism against artists, who are always giving what they want to give. I wanted people to take whatever they wanted to, so it was very important to say you can cut wherever you want to. It is a form of giving that has a lot to do with Buddhism. There's a small allegorical story about Buddha. He left his castle with his wife and children and was walking towards a mountain to go into meditation. As he was walking along, a man said that he wanted Buddha's children because he wanted to sell them or something. So Buddha gave him his children. Then someone said he wanted Buddha's wife and he gave him his wife. Someone calls that he is cold, so Buddha gives him his clothes. Finally a tiger comes along and says he wants to eat him and Buddha lets the tiger eat him. And in the moment the tiger eats him, it became enlightened or something. That's a form of total giving as opposed to reasonable giving like "logically you deserve this" or "I think this is good, therefore I am giving this to you."

"Cut piece was ritualistic and ceremonial.

Nuns understood it because they are used to giving.

All of us have energy but not all of us give it. It's easy to change the world."

– Yoko, November 2014 Lecture at Paley Center

Yoko told Robert Enright in 1994 that at the time, "I didn't have any notion of feminism." but later accepted the feminist associations about Cut Piece that she had not originally intended. She became a radical feminist soon after. Ono's 1970 film Fly, was more of a feminist statement.

Yoko had also applied the idea of cutting to film…


Ask audience to cut the part of the image on the screen that they don't like.

Supply scissors

- from SIX FILM SCRIPTS BY YOKO ONO, Tokyo, June 1964

The catalog for Stone (a multimedia collaboration at Judson Church Gallery, New York with John Hendricks and other artists) included Yoko's summary of Cut Piece.

"People went on cutting the parts they do not like of me. Finally there was only the stone remained of me that was in me but they were still not satisfied and wanted to know what it's like in the stone."
– Yoko,  March 1966

Performance artist Charlotte Moorman performed Yoko's Cut Piece hundreds of times. She saved all the pieces of clothing that had been cut away from her over the years, as a gift to Yoko.

“One hundred years from now, it’s Yoko Ono the world is going to remember. 
Not John Lennon or the Beatles.” – Charlotte Moorman

* Wallace Berman and William Burroughs appear on the The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.

Cut Piece Performances by Yoko Ono:

July 20, 1964 Kyoto, Yamaichi Concert Hall with Anthony Cox

August 11, 1964 Tokyo, Sogetsu Art Center – Strip-Tease Show

March 1965 New York City, Carnegie Recital Hall – New Works of Yoko Ono

Sept. 28 & 29, 1966 London, Africa Center – DIAS presents Two Evenings with Yoko Ono

September 2003 Paris, Ranelagh Theater (performed by Yoko at age 70)

"Against ageism, against racism, against sexism and against violence."

Notable Re-Enactments:

September 1966 - 4th Avant Garde Art Festival organized by Charlotte Moorman, New York, Central Park - performed by two men. + various subsequent performances by Charlotte Moorman

April 1967 - London, Alexandria Palace performed by model Carol Mann. (Directed as

part of the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream Extravaganza)

Fall 1968 - London, Judson Gallery by John Hendricks

2012 - Waco, TX, by Baylor University Art & Theater students

2013 London, Meltdown Festival (curated by Yoko Ono) – by Peaches

Saturday, January 07, 2017



Yoko Ono
 by Madeline Bocaro

In November 1966, Yoko Ono debuted her art piece, Apple at her exhibit titled Unfinished Paintings and Objects at London's Indica gallery.

This was where Beatle John Lennon first encountered the Japanese artist and her work in November 1966. He thought that the bright green Granny Smith apple on a plexiglas pedestal with its asking price of £200 was "pretty funny",  and proceeded to take a bite prior to the show's opening the next day. This modern tale of Adam and Eve began the ballad of John and Yoko, leading to a wider world view of Ono's art. It also began the turbulent, yet exciting years for the infamous couple who would dedicate their eternal union to promoting peace.

"I finally met Yoko and the dream became a reality."
- John Lennon, The Ballad of John and Yoko

Yoko was not only presenting nature's perfect creation, the apple on a pedestal. She was also – unwittingly –  an avant-garde Johnny Appleseed leaving a trail of seeds, using nature to nurture conceptual art via the forbidden fruit. (Her art also assimilated many other elements of nature; sky, wind, water, air…the whole universe!) In her collaboration with nature, Yoko presents an apple's beauty and transience as it decays - life as art, art as life.

In religion and in mythology, the apple is associated love, sensuality, sin and temptation.

"The apple is the wisdom we gave to men"
 – Yoko Ono 2010
Upon entering Yoko's One Woman Show at the Museum of Modern Art (New York City, May 2015) the first vision was a brightly lit, glowing green Apple on the original cracked Plexiglass pedestal from 1966 - with a security guard standing behind it. I asked if he felt silly guarding an apple. He replied, "Yes, because it's totally replaceable!" He said that it would be often replaced with a fresh apple, contrary to Yoko's original idea of the piece…

"There is the excitement of watching the apple decay, and the decision as to whether to replace it, or just thinking of the beauty of the apple after it's gone."
      Yoko Ono, Daily Sketch November 15, 1966
For what became John and Yoko's Acorn Event (1968) at Coventry Church, Yoko had originally planned to bury an apple so that a tree would grow, but John suggested planting acorns facing east and west instead (signifying their union).

"Art is a beautiful thing but art is not just creating something. People who think that are wrong. Everything is created already in the world. Nature created everything and you don't have to create anything anymore, so art then is just reevaluating what is already there." - Yoko Ono, International Times 1971

Inevitably, a comparison to Duchamp was made, because of his use of readymade objects. The two artists' commonality was that their art was 'off the canvas, and off the wall'

"I felt that I had gone a step further from (Duchamp's) idea of found objects…I was saying, Here's something I'm presenting that you can add to…"
      Yoko to Hans Ulrich Obrist, November 2001

And in the end…

 "When it deteriorates and disappears, the pedestal with the 'APPLE' plaque will just be left there like a tombstone." Y.O.


The Beatles' Apple Records label was, launched in the summer of 1968. The apple logo was first used on the single 'Hey Jude'/'Revolution'.

 "I had this friend called Robert Fraser, who was a gallery owner in London…We were discovering Magritte in the sixties… we just loved his sense of humour. And when we heard that he was a very ordinary bloke who used to paint from nine to one o'clock, and with his bowler hat, it became even more intriguing. One day Robert brought this painting to my house."
 - Paul McCartney to Belgian journalist Johan Ral, 1993

The name of the painting is actually 'Le jeu de mourre' (The Game of Mora). In René Magritte - Catalogue Raisonné (1993), it is listed as number 1051 and situated late in the artist's life, in 1966. As Paul still owns the original painting, only a black and white photograph is available to the public. A colorized version has been re-created.

 "We were out in the garden and Robert didn't want to interrupt, so when we went back in the big door from the garden to the living room, there on the table he'd just propped up this little Magritte. It was of a green apple. That became the basis of the Apple logo. Across the painting Magritte had written in that beautiful handwriting of his 'Au Revoir'. …And this big green apple, which I still have now, became the inspiration for the logo. And then we decided to cut it in half for the B-side!""
- Paul McCartney, Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser, Harriet Vyner (1999)

René Magritte passed away in 1967 at age 68.