Yoko Ono Tribute Art Will Be Presented by Baylor University Art and Theatre Students

performance art
Baylor students Hannah Quinn, left,and Alex Phillips rehearse "performance art." (Photo courtesy Erin Dickhaut)
Oct. 5, 2012

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Oct. 5, 2012) -- Baylor University art and theatre students are joining to re-interpret a 1964 "performance art" by Yoko Ono as a tribute to a work that has been interpreted variously through the decades as anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ageist and --both during the Vietnam War and in the wake of 9/11 -- as pro-peace.

The performance art, to be presented Oct. 11, was the idea of Baylor art students and co-producers Erin Dickhaut and Alexandra (Alex) Phillips, who were intrigued in an art history class at Baylor when they viewed a YouTube video of Yoko Ono's Cut Piece. In it, she walked onstage and kneeled impassively while fragments of her garment were cut away by viewers.

"It doesn't mean any one specific thing. It's about vulnerability," said Dickhaut, a senior graphic design and studio art major from Nacogdoches.

The Baylor tribute performance will be different from that of others who have re-enacted Yoko Ono's work in that it involves not only students, but also members of both genders, different ethnicities and varying body types, said Phillips, a senior art history major from Rockwall.

Onstage participants will include two men and three women, among them a Hispanic student and an Asian American, Phillips and Dickhaut said.

Performance art differs from other art forms in that viewers interact in a way other than merely viewing, discussing or even purchasing.

Yoko Ono originally presented Cut Piece in 1964 in cities in Japan and at Carnegie Hall, and others have done it through the years. Most recently, Yoko Ono reprised her art performance in 2003 in Paris, characterizing it as commitment to art, a challenge to artistic ego, a gift and a spiritual act. She told Reuters News Agency that she did it "against ageism, against racism, against sexism and against violence."

The Baylor students' interpretation is a novel approach and a "once-in-a-lifetime event," said Katie Edwards, Ph.D., an assistant professor of art history in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. She is the faculty co-sponsor for the event, along with Stan Denman, Ph.D., chair of the department of theatre arts.

Phillips said the idea started as "'We should recreate that.' We were joking. But then we latched onto it."

"It went from 'We could,' to 'We should' to 'We have to,'" Dickhaut added.

The initial plan was for the two women to present the art as a feminist statement, with five to seven women taking part.

But when faculty members in Baylor's department of theatre arts learned about the idea, they hopped on board, suggesting men be included as well, the co-producers said. Several theater students were interested in taking part.

"We wanted to merge art and theater, to have a unity about this," Phillips said. "We thought that the more people there are, the stronger the statement is."

Invitations have been sent to faculty members, students said.

Kay Mueller, senior lecturer and in sociology at Baylor and director of the minor program in gender studies, said she plans to give her students extra credit if they attend the event and write a paper on it.

She said aspects of the art mesh well with her class on gender roles. She said Phillips is one of her students, and "her excitement about this spilled over into our classes. I saw the connection between this and gender studies, and I had never heard about performance art. We can apply this to the theories we've learned and to other fields.

"Students will be doing some soul-searching," Mueller said. "We learn about verbal and non-verbal communication . . . Isn't this a perfect way for our students to do non-verbal communication?"

Dickhaut said the artists want "not only to make this statement, but to educate people about the contemporary art field. This isn't just people being weird."

"There are some very radical pieces out there in the art world, but we want to be civil," Phillips added. "You don't have to be drastic to make the statement."

To prepare for the art, artists/actors will don black overlay garments - as simple as black T-shirts and black slacks -- with opaque garments beneath. Audience members will be able to file on stage if they wish, with each individual to cut no more than one small fragment from one of the performers.

"It's super simple and cheap," Phillips said. "We wanted to keep it as close to the original (Ono's art) as possible."

Joked Dickhaut: "It's not something you can wear again. It's like an ugly bridesmaid's dress."

She said she follows Ono on Facebook. "I said, 'We're doing this, and you're invited if you want to come.'"

"Our biggest hope is there will be a performance piece every semester," Phillips said. "We're hoping we set a good enough model that it can be continued."

After the performance, video of reactions from the audience, as well as interviews with the artists, will be played at a reception. The performance art, free and open to the public, will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at Jones Theatre in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, 60 Baylor Ave., on Baylor's campus. The reception will be follow in the lobby in front of the Martin Museum of Art, also in Hooper-Schaefer.

For more information, contact baylorcutpiece2012@yahoo.com

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University's oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 26 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences

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