Music News

Yoko Ono celebrates her birthday on February 18. While many remember her for being the wife of the late John Lennon, Ono is a revered performance artist in her own right.

In honor of Ono’s birthday, here are three very different (and very unique) performance art pieces from her.

  • 'Cut Piece'

    This is one of Ono’s most notable performances from 1965. In the piece, she sits on stage in a black dress with a pair of scissors and invites members of the audience to cut off parts of her dress. Ono said of the piece, “When I do the Cut Piece, I get into a trance, and so I don’t feel too frightened.…We usually give something with a purpose…but I wanted to see what they would take.” She added, “There was a long silence between one person coming up and the next person coming up. And I said it’s fantastic, beautiful music, you know? Ba-ba-ba-ba, cut! Ba-ba-ba-ba, cut! Beautiful poetry, actually.”

  • 'Voice Piece For Soprano & Wish Tree'

    Here Ono is in 2010 at an exhibit at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) performing “Voice Piece For Soprano & Wish Tree.” Per a piece by writer Jason Persse for MoMA, Ono originally created this piece in 1961 and is one of her famed “instruction pieces.”

    Persse recalled encountering “Voice Piece…” in 2010 as part of the museum’s Contemporary Art for the Collection exhibition. The instructions for “Voice Piece…” are, “Scream. 1. against the wind 2. against the wall 3. against the sky.” Those instructions are next to a microphone and loudspeakers.

    Persse writes, “I stared at the microphone for a while as a perfectly reasonable voice in my head informed me that I would not, under any circumstances, make a loud noise in a museum. Fifteen long minutes later, after watching several brave souls roar their hearts out in defiance of all propriety, I stepped up to the mic and let out a trio of wavering screams, each slightly less pathetic than the last.”

  • 'Sky Piece To Jesus Christ'

    Lastly, here’s Ono at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 2013 doing an “Action Piece” painting.  (Around the 7:35 mark.)

    Per the video’s YouTube caption, “In Sky Piece to Jesus Christ (1965) the members of a chamber orchestra are wrapped in gauze bandages. Ono views the sky as the epitome of freedom in contrast to the inner and outer bonds visualized during the performance. The performance is further explained in the related video interview ‘A thing called life’.”

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