In the end no-one could bring themselves to snip her
knickers off. Yoko Ono's commitment to nudity in the
name of peace was replaced by a modest display of
Almost 40 years after she first performed Cut Piece in
Tokyo, the 60-year-old artist was moved to recreate her
striptease performance in protest at the political
climate following the September 11 attacks.
Avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, widow of John Lennon, watches as son Sean Lennon cuts a piece of her dress at a Paris theatre, September 15, 2003. Ono watched on as dozens of strangers cut her clothes off piece by piece in a Paris theater, leaving the artist on stage wearing nothing but her underwear. Photo by John Schults/Reuters
For an hour and twenty minutes last night, the
audience at a small Parisian theatre had the chance to
cut away pieces of Ono's outfit to mark their solidarity
with her hopes for world peace. But the spirit of the
1960s was painfully absent, and the occasion was
marked by a mood of timid politeness.
Around 200 people queued up to chop away at her
t-shirt and expensive-looking black silk skirt. One by
one they climbed on to the stage, picked up the
scissors and removed a snippet of material.
Leaflets explaining the procedure advised the audience
to cut away pieces no larger than a postcard (and to
"send the scrap of fabric to someone you love").
Because of the large number of protective ruffles on the
skirt, the performance was prolonged.
At 7.25pm Ono adopted a long-suffering gaze as the
first shirt fragment was removed. At 7.40 she was
obliged to stop one enthusiastic audience member
from chopping up her black suede shoes.
By 8.29 she remained sitting demurely on a wooden
stool - her bra exposed and her skirt a little gnawed at
the edges. Even her son, Sean Lennon, sitting in the
front row, let out a discreet yawn.
A few minutes later a young man sliced through the
waistband, leaving her in her underpants.
One piece of bra elastic was cut through and then the
queue of people faded away, apparently too inhibited to
continue. Ono retreated into the wings in a pink
Art historians often describe the 1964 occasion as a
"violation" of Ono by the audience, who stripped her -
"more like a rape than an art performance". Last night's
performance was a very courteous violation.
"These occasions don't always end in nakedness," a
retired American teacher explained. "When I performed
it with a small group of students, they left a lot of my
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003