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The veil of ignorance or unveiling Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece

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Yoko Ono’s performance Cut Piece (1964) is anchored by the instructions Cut Piece that the artist had produced in 1962 and in 1966, where the concept of the work lies. The clothing the performer wears is equally an important component of the work, and its cutting is what activates it. These aspects will be examined under the theoretical framework built on Kant’s and Derrida’s concept of the parergon, Heidegger’s ‘Gelassenheit’ (releasement), destruction and retrieval, Agamben’s clothing/nudity apparatus and Mauss’ notion of the gift-giving exchange. Cut Piece’s concern with the power relation between author and reader will also be examined throughout the article, with recurrent reference to Yoko Ono’s earlier work, Audience Piece (1962), and through Sartre’s and Levinas’ theories on Being for the Other and the limits of freedom. In search of the fons et origo of Cut Piece, the investigation will use Derrida’s method of deconstruction and further on discuss its displacement and recontextualization. Seamlessly, it will decipher the many layers of meanings it conceals and unveils, and will bring forth a number of viewpoints, reminding us that since the artist’s attempt is to realize her ideas in the actions of Others, it inevitably means that the work projects a range of ongoing interpretations.
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Keywords: Cut Piece; Veil of Ignorance; Yoko Ono; destruction; freedom; gift-giving exchange; nudity; parergon

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent Scholar

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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