Bitch Magazine asked 20 artists, writers and activists for their reflections on Yoko Ono for their Art/See issue.
They’ve now posted the resulting feature on their website – it was definitely one of my favourites from that issue.
The responses are really interesting – Ono’s Cut Piece in particular comes up a lot:
4. Offered Sacrifice
Back in the ’60s, I was peripherally involved in a Fluxus concert evening at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York where Yoko did several pieces, [including] “Cut Piece.” People began lining up to cut little pieces of her skirt or sleeves or strands of hair as souvenirs, or artworks, if you prefer. Everybody was very respectful, [and] Yoko remained impassive, without any change of expression.
The atmosphere changed to dark and unpleasant when several young men who were obviously not members of the art community started taking off large parts of her skirt and sweater, disclosing her bra, and getting back on line after each of their cuts. They couldn’t stop laughing. I recall Carolee Schneemann going up to one of them and slapping him in the face, which didn’t faze him one bit. He was after Yoko—the offered sacrifice.
At the point where one of the grinning guys went towards her bra strap with the scissors, Yoko made a slight gesture towards the wings, and the curtain immediately closed on her before her breast could be revealed. The piece was over. Obviously, when you let the audience into the artwork, you can’t always predict the result.
—Eleanor Antin, performance artist, filmmaker, and installation artist
“Cut Piece” was astonishing. It was an extremely dangerous piece, especially in the moment when it was done, because there was no sense of feminist presence or barriers. She could have been stabbed. Vile things were in the air then, so she was challenging those very dark impulses in this vulnerable position—and that was the indelible power of it.
Yoko is a determined visionary, and now she has a huge fortune to work with, and every possible international art connection would want to be associated with her. It’s a strange, anomalous personal history. She was ignored. She was marginalized. She was vilified. And she’s become golden.
—Carolee Schneemann, multidisciplinary artist
And an extra bonus: Yoko Ono and Le Tigre perform Sisters O Sisters: