The Mistress of Wishes

What Yoko Ono meant

01 March 2012
A performance of ‘Cut Piece’ in New York in 1965.
A performance of ‘Cut Piece’ in New York in 1965.

IN 1964, A SLENDER, ROUND-FACED YOUNG WOMAN knelt silently on a stage in Tokyo, Japan, as members of the audience came up one by one to snip away bits of her clothing.

The event was entitled ‘Cut Piece’, and the 31-year-old artist on stage belonged to a well-connected Japanese family that had emigrated to the US. Though her family objected to her artistic career, she became a singer-songwriter, acted in avant-garde films, and designed and performed in other live-art presentations, all in relative obscurity. Two years after she first enacted ‘Cut Piece’, however, she was catapulted to the pinnacle of fame by her association and eventual marriage to John Lennon of the Beatles.

She was and is, of course, the legendary Yoko Ono.

Manjula Padmanabhan is a writer and artist. Her books include Hot Death, Cold Soup and ESCAPE. Harvest, her fifth play, won the 1997 Onassis Prize. She has illustrated 25 books for children.

Keywords: Delhi art artist Yoko Ono exhibitions ‘Cut Piece’ Our Beautiful Daughters The Seeds performance art