Thursday, November 01, 2007
The Fly of Ken Little
photo: the fly of Ken Little and the worn knee of Hills Snyder
The work of Yoko Ono has been in the spotlight around here lately with her recent exhibition at the UTSA Art Gallery, and some satellite events have unfolded since the show opened on September 26. Imagine Peace (in Espanol) billboards have appeared around town; curator Kevin Concannon lectured on the collaborative work of Yoko and John, identifying the deep roots of Yoko's conceptual work with Fluxus; I screened the FluxFilm Program compiled by George Macunias himself for the Filmmakeers Co-op in NYC; and last Friday night Ken Little performed Yoko Ono's Cut Piece.
The Aula Canaria lecture hall at the UTSA downtown campus was awash with the anticipation of a group of students, artists, professors, and a couple kids. Eventually, UTSA's gallery director and art history professor Scott Sherer introduced the piece and Ken, with the instructions for us to come up one at a time to cut off a piece of Ken's clothing. "The piece is over when Ken says it is." Ken came out in a pin-striped wool suit and sat down on a tiny chair in front of us.
We hesitated, but soon got into full swing. Fairly early on in the cutting was a tribute to Nam June Paik, who cut the necktie of John Cage just below the knot the first time the two met. The fifth cutter, notably the first female cutter, was the first to expose some flesh. UTSA professor of art Meredith Dean cut out the piece of shirt behind where Ken's tie had been. Cut after cut, Ken remained stoic and unperturbed-- it turned out to be a rather solemn event.
On my first cut I made sure to take a fairly decent-sized piece, with intentions to embroider a diagram on it (check it out in my show at Cactus Bra, opening tomorrow night). At one point, Hills Snyder cut off the leg of his own pants and placed it onto Ken's naked thigh. Being next in the cutting line, I naturally cut a piece of Hills' denim. The cuts continued. Ken's clothing disappeared little by little. Eventually, one man retreated from his cutting stance before making the cut, saying he just couldn't. Ken's clothes continued to shrink as people snipped smaller and smaller pieces away.
Who knew how long this could go on? I jumped up and cut off what was left of Ken's suit, leaving him sitting in his briefs. The next cutter paid homage to Yayoi Kusama by dotting Ken's shoulders and head with circles cut from the suit. Then Ken said thank you and it was over.
When I first heard that Ken was going to do the piece, I wondered how the gender dynamic would play out. During the performance, it actually didn't seem relevant. People responded to the human being with reverence for his vulnerability. The next day, however, we were doing exquisite corpse drawings with Ken, Justin Parr, and Bettie Ward (upcoming AFSA fundraiser). When asked about how the piece ended, Ken said "They pussied out." In other words, nobody had the balls to cut off his underwear. I was kinda' surprised by his attitude, but not really, and just couldn't imagine Yoko saying such a thing.
I will take this moment to get on my soapbox to say: PUSSY IS POWERFUL. Let me know if I need to expound on this.
Thank you x 10,000 to Ken Little for performing the Cut Piece, and to Scott Sherer for bringing the energy of Yoko Ono to San Antonio! And remember, as Yoko says, you are either in the business of war or in the business of peace. It's that simple.
11/6/07 - I would like to extend my apology to Ken Little for misquoting him, as he is fairly certain that he used the term 'wussed out' instead of the P-word. Sorry Ken!