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Performance photographs and the (un)clothed body: Yoko Onos Cut Piece
Author: Johnson, Clare
Source: Clothing Cultures, Volume 1, Number 2, 1 March 2014, pp. 143-154(12)
Clothing played an important role in a number of performance art events during the 1960s and 1970s. Performances such as Yoko Onos Cut Piece (1964), Marina Abramovics Rhythm 0 (1974) and Hannah Wilkes Super-T-Art (1974) implicated the viewer in an embodied relationship with the (un)dressed artist. In these works fabric was variously torn, bound, wrapped, folded and cut off the body. The movement of fabric as it is wrapped and gathered, the sound of cutting clothes away from the body and the charged atmosphere of a potentially violent encounter are all imagined in the photographs that exist of these works. This article explores the relationship between performance and photography in Yoko Onos Cut Piece, a performance in which members of the audience cut fragments of clothing away from Onos body. Far more than documents that record live events, as if supplementary to the real encounter, these photographs have their own aesthetic, which informs the way we remember the performances and understand their significance. Using the dialogue Ono sets up between performance and photography, this article challenges the dominant feminist reading of scopic violence in Cut Piece and considers the work as an event scattered across time.
Keywords: Cut Piece; Yoko Ono; feminist art; performance art; photography; temporality
Clare Johnson teaches on both the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Visual Culture. She is the Director of the Visual Culture Research Group and a member of the Gender and Culture Research Group at UWE.
Clare’s primary research interests are feminist approaches to art history, inter-generational approaches to contemporary art and visual culture. Her current work argues for an understanding of femininity as an embodied relationship to time in artworks made by women in the 1970s and 1990s/2000s. She has published on the work of Tracey Emin, Vanessa Beecroft, Eleanor Antin and Carolee Schneemann and is currently writing an article on the performance photographs of Yoko Onos Cut Piece (1964).
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