Post reblogged from with 5 notes
Performance art intrigues me because of its ability to remove the barriers between the artist and the audience. There is something powerful in the act of watching art unfold in front of you in real time. There are some performers who even take their art a step further, by allowing the audience to change their role from passive viewers to active participants.
Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono are two artists who have both been known to make their audience members an integral part of their performance. Keeping your audience engaged is something all performers strive for, but making your art dependent upon audience participation causes a paradigm shift of sorts.
Imagine that Cut Piece, instead of involving the audience, was just a performance where Yoko Ono slowly cut her own clothing off. Imagine that The Artist is Present was just Marina Abramovic staring off into space in a room full of people. In these scenarios, the artist is more of an usher walking you through the experience. The message being something akin to “here is my art, appreciate it.” The message that is conveyed by the actual works mentioned is instead more like “please help me turn this experience into art so we can appreciate it together.”
The other aspect of this type of performance that makes it so powerful is the amount of courage it requires from both parties. Cut Piece is a particularly good example of this. For the audience, they must be aware that the way they approach the request to cut off a piece of clothing, could potentially give everyone watching a glimpse into their true nature. As the artist, you must be acutely aware that you are giving the audience an opportunity to interact with you, and without many rules the interaction could be either positive or negative.
In my opinion, it is the level of interaction and the courage that this interaction takes, which makes performance art such as this so palpable and unforgettable. Though, other types of performance, such as a music concert or a Broadway show may be engaging, people who have only ever experienced performance as a passive viewer are missing an amazing opportunity to feel something new.
In my morning class, we watched this video of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, a performance in which Ono sat on a stage, unmoving, with a pair of scissors and invited the audience to cut away bits of her clothing. People begin tentatively participating, and then start to have fun with it, some laughing, and at around 7:10 seconds in, a man walks up, jokes, “It’s very delicate. Might take some time!” then slowly cuts away more than just a piece—he takes apart her undershirt, he rips it off of her like he’s peeling the wrapping off a present, and then he snips her bra straps and walks away. Through this, Ono becomes visibly upset and seems like she’s holding back tears.
The reactions in the room among my classmates were split.
The women in the class were appalled and angry.
The men, however, laughed at the man’s audacity, calling out, “Now that’s what I call an opportunist!” and “It’s about time!”
After the video was over, we discussed what we’d seen. I mentioned how disturbing it was that the audience seemed to grow to enjoy an act of destructive violation. When put in those terms, and when it was pointed out that the reactions in the classroom were so different between the men and the women, there was an awkward silence that made it clear that none of this had even occurred to the boys.
The actual performance may have had other meanings, but I think my class’ response to it says a lot about how we excuse and embrace violence when permission is given, and also the ease with we can view a woman, especially a half-naked woman, as an object, to the point where some men (and other women) can’t even empathize with one.
Photo with 4 notes
Cut Piece (2003). Sept 15, 2003 at Theatre Ranelagh, Paris, France. Following the political changes through the year after 9/11, I felt terribly vulnerable - like the most delicate wind could bring me tears. It was as though everything I believed in was rapidly melting away, while I continued walking still carrying my beliefs. The front page of the papers and the TV news were feeding us what they wanted to - assaulting our senses. Men without faces were at work. Force and intimidation were in the air. People were silenced. I always thought I wanted to live forever, that I was one person who was not scared of doing so. But would I want to live surrounded by this world as we know now? Some people went to Palestine to act as human shields. That really touched me. If all of us stood to become human shields instead of machine gunning each other… My immediate thought was to join them. I almost did, and didn’t. Later, the world heard of the death of Rachel Corrie. She made her stand for all of us. Cut Piece is my hope for World Peace. Because today is a very special day for me. Like every day. And I’m determined to cherish every moment. When I first performed this work, in 1964, I did it with some anger and turbulence in my heart. This time I did it with love for you, for me, and for the world. My body is the scar of my mind. I’ll see you. yoko 6d marlola You inspire me with each post, yoko! (Photo by yokoonoofficial • Instagram)
Photo with 69 notes
Cut Piece (1964) March 21, 1965 at Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC. Filmed by Albert & David Maysles. This piece was performed in Kyoto, Tokyo, New York and London. In a sitting position onstage, I place a pair of scissors in front of me and ask the audience to come up on the stage, one by one, and cut a portion of my clothing (anywhere they like) and take it. Cut Piece is about freeing yourself from yourself. Like all artists, I have the tendency to give what I want to give. And I am defying that, in that piece. And it is a frightening piece to perform. Very tense. And because it was such an incredibly important piece for me, I took care of the details. In those days clothes were very important to me because I had so few. But when I performed Cut Piece I always made sure to wear my best suit. It was the total offering, you know, so that you wanted to wear your best suit for it. I lost my best suit every time I performed the 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. (via Photo by yokoonoofficial • Instagram)
This is where my cut piece ended up at the end of the Musicircus. I’m hoping the one I have for my BFA show is gone by the end of opening night.
The before and after of my Cut Piece after Yoko Ono. Silkscreen and acrylic on canvas, 60x80 inches.
Heh. This is really funny :D
My wardrobe went down very rapidly, until there were maybe two clothes left,” she chuckles. “But the feeling was to use my best clothes - for art’s sake.
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