The feminist movement is of significant value to art, although sometimes it is rather underestimated. The feminist artists ccontributed to the women’s image, its role in society, and exposed the passiveness and submissiveness the women are obliged to endure. During the 1960s, the Japanese NIST artist, Yoko Ono, created a powerful performance in Japan and New York. While the artist was sitting on the stage, everybody was allowed to pick up the scissors and cut off a piece of her clothing (Vabethany, 2013). The most awkward and outrageous moment was when a man cut off a huge piece of her closing, exposing her underwear to the public. However, this might have been the aim of the artist – to illuminate the fear and aggression that vulnerability evokes.
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Touch constitutes intimacy and vulnerability, and it thus reveals a spectator’s ability to feel these while interacting with others. During her performance, Marina Abramovic allowed the public to use different items on her, including “a feather, a scalpel, paint, a gun, and a bullet” (Butler et al., 2007). Soon, she was bleeding and almost shot – through touch, the artist explored the nature of the passivity of a person exposed to the people with no compassion toward others. In another work, “Art Must Be Beautiful,” Abramovic, naked, “violently brushed her hair back with one hand while combing her hair forward with the other hand as she repeated ‘Art must be beautiful; the artist must be beautiful’” (Butler et al., 2007). In this case, through touch, the artist addressed the sexist demands of the female body in the beauty industry.
In addition, some other works explored common gender and race rejection. While Ono’s performance was received more peacefully in her native country, Japan, the public in New York was more audacious, demonstrating their attitude toward the Asian artist. Another performer, Pane, addressed the pain of the female’s body on behalf of the women themselves (Butler et al., 2007). She cut her lips and fingernails, and then, looking at the public, drank milk which became stained with blood. The performance suggested the cost of nurturing, familiar to each woman. Thus, through touch, the feminist artists addressed many issues concerning feelings, gender’s image, and the public’s attitude toward both women and men.
- Butler, C., Phelan, P., & Kirshner, J. R. (2007). WACK!: Art and the feminist revolution: The Returns of Touch: Feminist Performances, 1960–80. MIT Press.
- Vabethany. (2013). Yoko Ono – Cut Piece (1965) [Video]. YouTube. Web.