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In her 1962 manifesto "The Word of a Fabricator," yoko ono put herself on the side of fiction, drama, and intentionality in the politicization of her practice.1 Without naming him directly, she took her friend and mentor john cage to task for his Zen-inspired poetics of indeterminacy, which sought to liberate music of human intention and expressivity through the use of chance operations like coin tosses to inform musical scores.2 Famously drawing from the I Ching, Cage claimed that such chance operations mimicked the non-intentional processes of nature. As benjamin piekut has written, nature (figured as chance) thus became the authority that grounded Cage's aesthetic practice, which in the composer's words responded to "Oriental philosophies in accord with the acceptance of nature."3

In Ono's judgment, however, a political naiveté and philosophical presumptuousness lay at the heart of Cage's project:

This is an attempt to raise man's stature to that of nature … by succumbing to and adopting random operations as men's own. It is the state of mind of wanting to become a weed and join the heartbeat of the Universe by entering the world of nothingness and blowing in a gentle wind.4

The dream to become egoless and "plant-like," she argued, is illusory and politically [End Page 41] debilitating because "contemporary men … are soaked to the bones with a fabricator called consciousness."5 Drawing on Marxist and existentialist vocabularies, she explained that

We are talking about a body of a betrayer/l'étranger to the natural world. … We, "the betrayer," are so invaded by the falsehood of consciousness we cannot even become operational by using such a loose method as random operation.6

"Operational" appears in this passage as a surprising term that plays on Cage's "chance operations" to suggest something she found these techniques lacked. "Operational" means "working": it suggests a politics defined as the common interest that binds individuals in efficacious action (rather than "blowing in a gentle breeze"). Ono's use of the term "operational" resonates with her designation of AOS - to David Tudor (1961), arguably her most ambitious work of the period, as an "opera" about the "blue chaos of war" informed by her own history as an internal refugee following the Tokyo firebombings.7 For Ono, we will see, there could be no celebration of cultural exchange between "West" and "East" without a politics of practice responsive to mutually entangled histories of violence. In keeping with such goals, "The Word of a Fabricator" reads as a manifesto in the fullest sense of the term, a clarifying text that aims not only to interpret the world but also to change it.8 As such it foreshadows Ono's increasingly public artistic involvement in peace and liberation movements over the course of the decade.

In the spirit of "The Word of a Fabricator," this article interprets Ono's early work as the crucible for a politics of art and action that responded to New York's status as a capital of empire in the early 1960s, heralding the increasingly explicit politicization of downtown avant-gardes over that decade. The timing of Ono's manifesto is significant, coming near the end of the so-called "consensus period" of the Cold War in the U.S., when a hegemonic block supported U.S. expansionist policies abroad before fracturing with the escalation of the [End Page 42] war in Vietnam. Unlike Cage, Ono could not find a home for her thought and work in Cold War consensus discourses or, more specifically, the "Cold War Orientalism" Christina Klein has identified as characteristic of the period—a midcentury U.S. fascination with Pacific Rim cultures attending expanded U.S. geopolitical power abroad, which demands more discussion with attention to Cage beyond the scope of this article. In Klein's terms, Cold War Orientalism produced "narratives of anti-conquest" (not unlike Cage's turn away from ego) in a manner that risked legitimating "U.S. expansion while denying its coercive or imperial nature."9 To locate Cage in this discursive formation is not crudely to cast aspersions on him as an "imperialist," but rather to recognize his proximity to a liberal U.S. mainstream that embraced ideas of global "cultural exchange" without specifically critiquing U.S. neo-imperial power. This consensus-period mainstream fragmented in the early to mid-1960s around the time Cage's own political consciousness changed with his deepening interest in anarchy.10

Although Ono's words about "the body of a betrayer/l'étranger to the natural world" refer broadly to humankind as a category, they also speak to a particular experience of mass violence and betrayal perpetrated by each of her home nations, Japan and the United States, during and after World War II. As Midori Yoshimoto describes, the violence of the Showa-period Japanese militarized society and the U.S. bombings in Japan hindered Ono's easy identification with either of the nations in which she had been raised.11 Ono could not easily ignore the violent and imperial nature of either nation, just as she could not let go of "consciousness" and "intentionality" in her practice that aspired to respond to those political realities.12 We will see that "The Word of a Fabricator" therefore articulated an incipient politics shaped by Ono's exilic persona (conceived in gendered and national terms) and her experience of wartime trauma. Ono critiqued Cage's thought from a perspective drawing on German and French phenomenology, envisioning a new politics of practice that rejected Cage's valorization of non-intentionality while further extending his challenge to traditional authorship. In the interest of politics, she threw her own body, voice, persona, imagination, and history into the public realm.

This article devotes sustained attention to the early performances in New York that launched Ono's transcontinental career, interpreting them in relation to the philosophical and political practice outlined in "The Word of a Fabricator." [End Page 43] Despite her celebrity and reputation in the art world, we risk losing sight of the specific innovations of Ono's early career. With some valuable exceptions, her first works and performances have found a relatively slim reception, a fact that may seem surprising following her increasing recognition as a founding mother of 1960s performance and conceptual art movements.13 This lacuna partly arises from the ephemeral nature of those pieces, which confound disciplinary expectations even more intensively than many other happenings and event-based works of the period. While Ono's reception has mostly fallen under the purview of art critics and historians, relatively few visual traces remain from her early career. Moreover, unlike the oeuvres of such figures as Cage and La Monte Young, Ono's first performances eschewed formal scores and tape recording, discouraging musicological methods of interpretation. Ironically, without a consideration of her early work—due to this lack of documentation—musicology has tended to treat Ono as an acolyte of Cage when in fact her frequent rejection of score-based composition sets her apart from him.14 As she put it to her friend and collaborator George Maciunas, "Most of my pieces are meant to be spread by word of mouth [and], therefore, do not have scores. This means is very important since the gradual change which occurs in the piece by word spreading is also part of the piece."15 Such alteration of the work through fluid transmission disperses the authority of traditional authorship within an orbit of storytellers, creating an informal community history and network within and through the work's path of travel. These "stories"—elaborated in oral history, ephemera, critical commentary, reviews, and Ono's own self-narrative words—form the essential archive for her inaugural creative interventions.

It is this archive that intimates the events of Ono's AOS - to David Tudor as it unfolded at her debut performance at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1961. By Ono's account, AOS's title combines the Japanese word ao, designating a blue-green [End Page 44] color, with the word chaos to evoke its subject matter, "the blue chaos of war."16 Its dedication honors the virtuosic pianist most closely associated with Cage, whose works in Ono's words "came to existence only because of your [Tudor's] playing." (Ono wryly noted to Tudor, "I thought you could use a piece that you cannot take part in"; she offered him a gift that asked no favor in return.17) In five acts, AOS - to David Tudor involved the juxtaposition of animal sounds with human voices, a dehumanizing pile-up of human bodies, primal screaming, and amplified playback of World War II-era fascist speeches, including one of Hitler's addresses at Nuremburg. As such, Ono's "opera" reworks the conventions of that genre almost beyond recognition. Yet the generic category "opera" is in some ways not so far from Ono's world, since it designates qualities emphatically characteristic of her early work: a heightened affective register and sense of tragedy at odds with the Zen-inspired placidity then in vogue with many in Cage's circles.18 Of equal importance, Ono also appears to have used the term opera etymologically as something meant to work in a spirit of public engagement that has often characterized the history of opera as a genre.19

In its robust thematization of state violence, AOS can be seen as a harbinger of the increasingly vocal politics of dissent articulated in the "post-Cagean avant-garde" of the 1960s—a spirit of dissent that, as Thomas Crow describes, intensified in tandem with freedom struggles at home and abroad. Ono's work therefore also points to a gap in our historiography. The increasingly explicit politicization of this 1960s downtown community of artists, musicians, and thinkers is sometimes taken for granted as a natural accessory to Cagean poetics. Crow, for example, associates this politics of dissent with the move away (via Cage and Jasper Johns) from the "heroic model of artistic selfhood," which found parallels in the "spontaneous organization from below" that characterized "the most exciting and successful forms of dissenting politics" of the era.20 It is only more recently, however, that scholars have interrogated the modes of internal critique that made the politicization of the downtown scene around Cage possible.21

The need for such an inquiry becomes all the more urgent given Cage's own notorious reluctance to align his musical projects around 1960 with any explicitly activist platforms or to address the politics of his practice in an otherwise prolific outpouring of self-positioning words about music. Although Cage had once thematized mass violence through music (e.g., In the Name of the Holocaust [End Page 45] [1942]), he abandoned such tone-poem-like treatments with his midcentury move toward indeterminacy. As he put it in 1957 with pronounced serenity, his music was "an affirmation of life—not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living, which is so excellent once one gets one's mind and one's desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord."22 To be sure, such a statement may imply its own "utopian politics" of withdrawal and silence, as Caroline Jones has written, with its critique of "forced" situations and sounds.23 Yet we should also acknowledge how such words may suggest, as Yvonne Rainer later put it, the "total ignoring of worldwide struggles for liberation and the realities of imperialist politics, on the suppression of the question, 'Whose life is so excellent and at what cost to others?'"24 The move toward indeterminacy, in other words, risks acting as a mask for power and suppressor of action, especially when articulated in New York as a capital of empire at the height of the Cold War.

We will see that Ono's work helps to bridge the gap between Cage's indeterminate practice around 1960 and the openly dissenting, heterogeneous politics that flourished among younger generations in the downtown scene in the decade that followed. Three refreshing historiographic possibilities emerge from such a study. First, to see Ono as an "operatist/operator" is to begin to rethink the category of the "post-Cagean avant-garde," moving toward an ironically less ego- and genius-centered way of representing the fluid community at hand. Second, to grapple with the politics of Ono's practice is to recognize alternatives to the stale binary between a Cagean poetics of indeterminacy, on the one hand, and traditional composerly/painterly authority and authorship (as represented in Beethoven, Picasso, or Pollock), on the other. Ono's abjuring of the score format and her notion of word-spreading as politics brought one "third way" model among many that flourished in her milieu. To study this model, I argue, is to confront Ono's poetics as shaped by a specific, gendered history of displacement. By situating this troubled narrative at the center of the [End Page 46] 1960s New York "downtown scene," we counter many of the easy mythologies that sometimes naturalize it as a culmination of the "American Century" despite that scene's well-known embrace of and dependence on foreign-born individuals and their transnational professional networks. In the remainder of this article, we will elaborate on these historiographic possibilities through (1) a consideration of Ono's philosophically informed words about her practice, read in relation to Arendtian notions of action, and (2) an exploration of her art actions and their oral history at the Chambers Street Loft Series, AG Gallery, and Carnegie Recital Hall in 1961, with a focus on AOS - to David Tudor. We will see that Hannah Arendt's political thought serves not only as a provocative point of comparison with Ono's own, but also as a productive model for understanding the legacy of Ono's ephemeral early performances.


The philosopher Cecilia Sjöholm has recently cast the politics of contemporary performance art in the terms of Hannah Arendt's theory of action. In the following, I will address Arendt's work via Sjöholm not because Arendt was a primary intellectual source or interlocutor for Ono (she was not), but rather because Arendt's specific ideas about art, politics, and action shed an unusually clarifying light on Ono's own such ideas of the same period. Sjöholm turns to Arendt's notion of politics to enhance understandings of performance art (a world where Ono figures as founding mother) because both show a similar interest in tragedy as a starting point for political action within a space of appearances. Although Sjöholm focuses on the performances of Marie Fahlin and Ana Mendieta, her arguments also jibe provocatively with Ono's word-spreading model of art as politics, as we will see.

Sjöholm elaborates on fictionalized rituals of burial in Fahlin's and Mendieta's work, comparing them to classical tragedy (Antigone in particular). Burial here figures not as closure but rather as the "beginning of something new," the "claiming of a new order," the herald of unforeseeable consequences in the minds and actions of the audience as witnesses.25 Sjöholm writes, "the exposure of living bodies created a common space that could only be shared in the moment. … While the artist could be said to act as a person, singular and distinct from the public, he or she was at the same time implying its onlookers."26 Such observations also illuminate AOS's display of corpse-like bodies, an idea to [End Page 47] which we will return. As Arendt wrote of tragedy, in her gloss of Antigone's closing words, "it may be the capacity for 'great words' (megaloi logoi) with which to reply to striking blows that will eventually teach thought in old age."27 "Speech in this sense is a form of action," she wrote, "and our downfall can become a deed if we hurl words against it even as we perish."28

After tragedy, this act of sharing ("hurl[ing] words") also forms the basis for politics. Arendt derived this notion of politics from the classical polis:

not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together, and its true space lies between people living together for this purpose, no matter where they happen to be. … It is the space of appearance in the widest sense of the word, namely, the space where I appear to others as others appear to me, where men exist not merely like other living or inanimate things but make their appearance explicitly.29

Human subjects differ from other natural or inanimate objects because they disclose themselves to one another in a world of appearances. This understanding roughly accords with Ono's own insistence on humans' separation from other natural phenomena, their inability to discard consciousness and simply "become a weed and join the heartbeat of the Universe." It also resonates with Ono's thought in its distinctly diasporic perspective. For Ono, politics could not follow from one's loyalty to a homeland. Similarly for Arendt, politics does not derive from ties to a "physical location," but rather arises in the "in between" space of action and speech among agents, "no matter where they happen to be."

The resonances between Arendt's and Ono's thought arise not simply from a shared exilic identity in New York (with slightly overlapping social circles), but rather from a common intellectual heritage, namely, a shared investment [End Page 48] in politically oriented philosophical projects that revised transnational legacies of phenomenology during and after World War II (the "tragedy" of their lifetimes).30 In order to appreciate this connection, let us consider Ono's background in further detail. Born into a noble family and merchant dynasty in Tokyo in 1933, Ono became disowned by her family when she made the unconventional choice as a woman to pursue her career as an artist. She had spent her childhood shuttling between Tokyo and San Francisco following her father's banking career, interrupted by the trauma of the 1945 firebombings. Fleeing the city's devastation, she and her family endured starvation conditions in the countryside around Nagano, an experience that she later credited as securing her unusual path to follow a life of the "imagination."31 As her first adult step in this pursuit, she entered Japan's prestigious philosophy program at Gakushuin University in 1951 as its first female student—a study that left a lasting imprint on her thought. After two semesters, she withdrew from the program at her family's urging to study poetry and music at Sarah Lawrence College, close to their new family home in Scarsdale, New York. She finally dropped out of college in the mid-1950s to embark on a career in the arts, marrying composer Toshi Ichiyanagi against her family's wishes. Ono made ends meet by teaching classes in tea ceremony, calligraphy, and other traditional arts at the Japan Society in Manhattan. The first semi-public and public performances that made her name took place in New York, beginning with the 1960-61 Chambers Street Loft Series (organized with La Monte Young) and culminating in her November 1961 Carnegie Recital Hall debut—after which she departed for a performance tour of Japan with Ichiyanagi (later to be joined by Cage). She wrote "The Word of a Fabricator" after having returned to Japan in 1962, while trying to decide whether to reestablish herself there, a difficult prospect since she was initially treated by Tokyo-based critics as a female novelty act, copycat of Cage, and cultural alien because of her many years abroad, as Yoshimoto has shown.32

It was therefore at a precarious moment in her early career, shuttling between two nations, that Ono turned to the resources of her philosophical training in order to articulate a politics and philosophy of artistic practice. At Gakushuin University, Ono had immersed herself in the phenomenological tradition, studying Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, and the French existentialists.33 Places like Gakushuin University (and, more famously, Kyoto University) nurtured a postwar generation of philosophy scholars contending with the specters [End Page 49] of militarist nationalism and authoritarianism that haunted the Japanese academy's longstanding dialogue with German phenomenology.34 Ono saw this study as vital to her self-invention after World War II. As she explained, "My strength at that time was to separate myself from the Japanese pseudo-sophisticated bourgeoisie. I didn't want to be one of them. I was fiercely independent from an early age and created myself into an intellectual that gave me a separate position."35

Due to elements of conceptual kinship, Arendt's postwar critical engagements in the phenomenological tradition shed light on Ono's own. Arendt's ideas also help us to put a finer point on Ono's simultaneous embrace of intentionality, on the one hand, and abjuring of traditional authorship, on the other, in the name of the political. Like Sartre, Camus, and others of their generation, Arendt found in Heidegger's work an unprecedented opportunity for philosophy to access political questions, an opportunity she argued that Heidegger had himself let slip by. As is well known, for Heidegger what differentiated humans from the rest of the natural world was the significance for humans of the question of being, or Dasein. Heidegger questioned what it means for humans to be situated in time and space given that they are always already in-the-world, in an Umwelt, or environment constituted by their concerned involvement with things. Within this world, "appearances" shine forth as the phenomena that orient this concern. Appearances here refer not exclusively to visual images, but rather to the entire registering of sense perceptions as a whole, which fit humans into the reality and world that surround them.36 This "world" of human concern, phenomena, appearances, and being-with-others (Mitsein) is precisely where Arendt and others located the political.

Such notions of "world" as common interest (following Arendt) imply an emphatically relational vision of art as politics, a relational vision poised to disrupt strong notions of the sovereign subject and traditional authorship. Within Arendt's model, art is political because it appears in the public sphere and solicits unforeseeable responses and consequences in the web of human [End Page 50] relationships. This idea resonates with Ono's assertion that her work would operate through its transformation in word-of-mouth remembrance, which itself fundamentally alters the "original" and undermines traditional notions of authorship (alongside conventional distinctions between commentary and work). For Arendt, the artist initiates action, yet she is never sovereign in her actions. She cannot claim authorship of the stories that her actions provoke—an important means through which she "appears" in public. As Arendt famously put it, "It is because of this already existing web of human relationships, with its innumerable, conflicting wills and intentions, that action almost never achieves its purpose; but it is also because of this medium, in which action alone is real, that it 'produces' stories with or without intention."37 Not surprisingly given these words, Arendt valorized art practices that exist "only in sheer actuality" rather than those that produce a reified "work," noting the examples of "healing, flute-playing, [and] play-acting" in ancient history.38 In other words, the "work" for Arendt "is not what follows and extinguishes the process but is imbedded in it,"39 recalling Ono's idea that "the gradual change which occurs in the piece by word spreading is also part of the piece."40 For Arendt the work was part of the altering process of action, while for Ono the altering process was part of the work.


In keeping with Ono's and Arendt's common interest in the afterlives of ephemeral actions, Ono's earliest "works" may be interpreted as actions producing "stories with or without intentions" in Arendt's sense. Take, for example, her very earliest performances in the Chambers Street Loft Series, of which no publicly accessible documentation in the form of photography, scores, or recordings remains.41 Ironically, even though Ono conceived the idea of renting the loft space for the performance series, and paid the $50.50 monthly rent, her works did not appear formally on the series program—a circumstance she has attributed to gender bias in the downtown art and music scene.42 From the beginning, Ono found herself denied credit for her role in organizing and producing the series, which La Monte Young claimed as solely his own in the series invitations, programs, and oral history.43 To add insult to injury, Ono has recounted that gender bias even fueled a sensational rumor that she was merely a "kept woman" housed in the loft by a "wealthy Chinese man"—a rumor that originated in some artists' half-witted joke that La Monte Young's name [End Page 51] sounded Chinese.44 As Ono bluntly put it, "Most of my friends were all male and they tried to stop me being an artist."45

The series featured artists who had met through Cage's class at the New School and continued their activities within a new sponsoring organization called the New York Audio Visual Group (NYAVG). As NYAVG member Dick Higgins remembered, the Loft Series provided a forum in which to witness the "results" of work they termed "research art," which focused on the use of "systems, charts, randomizations" in the production of music and sound—a reference to the kinds of indeterminate scores and systems that Cage had taught.46 The concerts were not public: rather, Young and Ono sent invitations only within a circle of interested parties, labeled with the emphatic disclaimer "THE PURPOSE OF THIS SERIES IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT." As Higgins recalled, Young not only scorned entertainment but also "very much rejected the idea of dramatic or theatrical value."47 After the time of the concerts, the composer Philip Corner even remembers having been "rebuffed" by Young because of his "use of crescendos."48

Ono responded to the challenge of her non-inclusion by staging characteristically dramatic guerilla performances. On one evening, for example, she could be found flinging her hair and throwing dried peas from a bag at visitors. By her own account, this composition, which she called Pea Piece, transformed a ritual she remembered from her childhood, the rural spring custom of throwing soybeans to ward off oni, which in Japanese folklore resemble devils, demons, or trolls. The sounds of the scattered peas delighted Ono, which she heard in the spirit of John Cage as a kind of music in itself.49 But unlike Cage, Ono also deliberately staged Pea Piece as a dramatic gesture that transforms actions from personal childhood memory, translating them within a contemporary setting. In the context of Ono's Loft Series, the downtown artists who excluded her from her own programs could themselves stand in as the fantastical devils she needed to ward off. It is also relevant that World War II-era Japanese children's literature and films specifically depicted Western men as oni, like foreign devils—a history that brings another layer of richness to Ono's hybridizing and [End Page 52] humorous translation of this ritual to catch American downtown artists off guard.50 Excluded from the program of her Loft Series, her gesture of flinging peas worked strategically to ensure she would be remembered and talked about, despite being omitted from the official program.

Oriented by Ono's later words, we can interpret her avoidance of the traditional score format as dismantling the authority of authorship even more radically than Cage's indeterminate practice. At the same time, her embodied performance—and her insistence upon concrete experience and personal memory—confers a different kind of authority to her work. This authority was not sovereign, because she asked that her pieces be talked about and taken up by others, whether in real life or the lives of their imaginations. The circumstances of the initial event—the initial "hope" and "wish" that brought it into being, as she put it—were simply "something that starts it moving," as it transforms in the hands and minds of others.51 Her work is thus distinctive in claiming a kind of embodied authority of witness, while dispersing authority among others to retranslate her work collaboratively in relation to their own memories and settings.

The story of Painting to Be Stepped On exemplifies how Ono's early work met with an uncertain reception at this time, despite the rich associations it later accrued through the words with which she surrounded it. The work was an "instruction piece": she wrote instructions for actions or rituals, texts that exist midway between poetry and score (eventually published in Grapefruit [1964]). Yet, at the time of the Loft Series, she did not share these texts publicly—unlike the word-based scores of some in her circle (e.g., La Monte Young and George Brecht). Painting to Be Stepped On follows a simple imperative: "Leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or in the street."52 At the time of the Loft Series, Ono left a swath of linen on the floor to collect the footprints of her visitors. Like Pea Piece, Ono saw Painting to Be Stepped On as translating a historic ritual within a contemporary setting—though this time with attention to a specific episode of state violence. As she later explained,

This painting stems from fumie, meaning "stepping painting." In the 15th century [sic] in Japan during the persecution of the Christians by the feudal lords, suspected Christians were lined up and asked to step on a painting of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Those who would not step on the painting were crucified.53 [End Page 53]

These later-life words about Painting to Be Stepped On locate terror at a site of cross-cultural encounter. They also highlight questions of inclusion and exclusion that resonate with the community dynamics of the Loft Series. Both of these themes are surprisingly absent in the critical literature on this work. Nonetheless, Painting to Be Stepped On has in recent years invited more notice than any of her other works in the Loft Series by virtue of an often-recounted anecdote involving Marcel Duchamp. This story merits another retelling, because it gets to the heart of the dilemmas of intelligibility and authority Ono faced in the months prior to her Carnegie Recital Hall debut. As Bruce Altshuler describes (following correspondence with Ono), "Marcel Duchamp had attended a concert in Ono's loft in 1961 during which she waited with anticipation, and eventual disappointment for him to notice and to step on her Painting to Be Stepped On."54 Midori Yoshimoto explains that Ono "was aware that Duchamp was her predecessor in using chance elements to complete a work, [but] she took one step further than Duchamp toward the demythologization of art by requiring others to participate in its making."55 Ono's excitement over this accomplishment exacerbated her disappointment that he failed to "participate" in making the work by stepping on it. From a contemporary standpoint, this story ironically reveals one iconic vanguardist's non-recognition of another. But in 1961, this failure may have pointed more direly to the irrelevance or obscurity into which Ono's work risked falling. Unlike Duchamp, the cellist Styra Avins, a sympathetic acquaintance of Ono's, recalled participating in something that may have been a forerunner to the Painting to Be Stepped On at the inaugural concert of the series.56 Yet she does not remember that Ono shared any words about her inspiration or intention for the piece, a circumstance she did not find "unusual" since the assumption in her milieu "was still that the work would stand on its own, without a philosophy to clarify intent."57 Nonetheless without such contextualization Avins found herself at a loss for what to make of the encounter other than that "it was very far out, that much was clear!"58

Given the challenges she faced in the Loft Series, Ono could not have anticipated that a more important personal connection than Duchamp would emerge through her actions there: it was through the series that she became friends with George Maciunas. Ono would help to catalyze Maciunas's subsequent career as founder and impresario of Fluxus, just as Maciunas would help to assemble the conditions through which Ono would make her work more truly public. Inspired by the Loft Series, Maciunas established his own performance series [End Page 54] at his newly created, short-lived AG Gallery on Madison Avenue in 1961.59 In contrast with Young, Maciunas advertised AG Gallery events publicly, though the space remained intimate with largely insider attendance.60 Having met Ono at her loft, Maciunas invited her to stage her first solo show in July 1961 before the gallery's closing. It was in this setting that Ono finally made some of her verbal texts public, displaying her written instructions with the material traces of their execution, while staying on hand at the gallery to provide further explanations to visitors in person.61 Her presence, in the manner of a guide or docent, heralded a new way of acting in the "space of appearance" at the gallery. She surrounded the "instruction pieces" with narrative while encouraging others to develop their own ways to participate in the "work's" creation. Her presence and words saved the "instruction pieces" from obscurity, while conferring authority to her actions through their rootedness in personal experience and memory. Other than Maciunas's photography, no physical objects document the "instruction pieces" from the period of the show: Ono destroyed the associated materials after their exhibition, at which point the gallery also closed.62 But she set a precedent for her practice that continues to this day, surrounding her work with layers of commentary that remain remarkably consistent in their imagery and concerns throughout different stages of her career, while inviting the alteration of those works through public participation.


"I feel a strange attraction to the first man in human history who lied," Ono wrote as the first line in "The Word of a Fabricator," sustaining an inquiry into the relation between truth and lies in the fabrication of art, which oriented her earliest works including those at Carnegie Recital Hall.63 As we have seen, Ono argued against Cage's chance methods as a misrepresentation of chance and nature as "truth" in art, a misrepresentation that failed to account for the human condition as "soaked to the bones with a fabricator called consciousness."64 Rather than attempting to "discard" her own consciousness, choice, and history, Ono would use them to fabricate works of fiction that create their own "conceptual reality."65 Ideally, her fabrications would transcend the limitations of her own consciousness and "operate" in the world with efficacy. Ono's praise for lying as politics resonates with Arendt's later writings on the subject:

[C]hange [in the world] would be impossible if we could not mentally remove ourselves from where we are physically located and imagine that [End Page 55] things might as well be different from what they actually are. In other words, the ability to lie, the deliberate denial of factual truth, and the capacity to change facts, the ability to act, are interconnected; they owe their existence to the same source, imagination.66

Figure 1. Photograph conceived as poster for Works by Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. Photograph by George Macunias, 1961. Gelatin silver print, image: 7 3/8 x 7 3/8 (18.7 x 18.7 cm). The Gilbert and Lisa Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.
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Figure 1.

Photograph conceived as poster for Works by Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. Photograph by George Macunias, 1961. Gelatin silver print, image: 7 3/8 x 7 3/8 (18.7 x 18.7 cm). The Gilbert and Lisa Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.

Linking together ideas of "conceptuality" and "imagination," Ono similarly stressed the role of such mental exercises in the initiation of action with material consequences in the world. From her perspective, the "reality" of the work would become a "concrete matter" (something beyond a mere mental construct) once others enact and alter it by the creator's own invitation.67 This is the process that allows the artist to break through her isolation as a creator with a limited vantage point and consciousness: "It is nothing more than the obsessive act of the driven, attempting to make one's own fiction a reality by allowing others to cut off pieces of the romanticism that inevitably enwraps fiction."68 "Romanticism" here refers to established notions of expressivity that designate fiction as the manifestation of a unique subjectivity. In keeping with postwar existentialists and phenomenologists, "drama" (figured within Ono's idiosyncratic take on "opera") would provide the medium par excellence for reaching beyond romantic solipsism toward public engagement and action. In contrast with such thinkers as Camus and Sartre, however, she tasked her performers and audience not with effectuating her original intention and style of expression (or "being-in-the-world"), but rather with substantially transforming them in the process of their enactment. [End Page 56]

Ono's 1961 Carnegie Recital Hall concert was the venue in which she put such ideas to the test before an audience of around three hundred (Fig. 1).69 Remarkably, she compared her works to the "excessive illusions and dramas" of "medieval ritual": "at its bottom lay an endless pessimism that only a fictional order can rescue us from death."70 For Ono, the contemporary moment was no time for "blowing in a gentle wind," but rather a time for "rescue." The performance of AOS - to David Tudor at Carnegie Recital Hall invites critical reinterpretation through an assemblage of oral accounts, written documents, reviews, and ephemera. I have discussed AOS - to David Tudor elsewhere with respect to its thematization of failures of translation in relation to "the blue chaos of war," in Ono's words.71 For our present purposes, I would like to foreground AOS's status as an opera—more specifically, as an expressively vocalized tragedy—because it is through this genre that Ono's critique of Cage operates. It is also through this genre that Ono's work exemplifies Sjöholm's arguments about the Arendtian quality of the performance art traditions Ono helped to catalyze.

AOS took as its starting point Ono's own consciousness and memory, but it also brought structured opportunities for the ensemble to "finish" the work in their own ways. The production included a roster of collaborators belonging to the downtown scene, who performed with movement, voice, and instruments: George Brecht, Trisha Brown, Joseph Byrd, Philip Corner, George Maciunas, Richard Maxfield, Jonas Mekas, Charlotte Moorman, Yvonne Rainer, and La Monte Young.72 In correspondence, Corner has painted a vivid picture of the scene, full of messy uncertainty: "I arrived in mid-afternoon at Carnegie Recital Hall—I was holding down a job in Brooklyn—to find that they were waiting for me. A somewhat chaotic situation." He saw that Young was "sitting in a corner with a friend" doing a "rhythmic repetitive ritual" and that "Yoko [had difficulty] getting order." By Corner's account, it was Charlotte Moorman who helped to corral the performers and bring order to the proceedings.73 Jonas Mekas also recalled that George Maciunas insisted on meticulously timing each segment of the program, a question to which we will return.74 [End Page 57]

AOS consisted of five contrasting acts set in a determinate sequence intimating the skeleton of a narrative. Although no score exists, Ono's own unpublished notes on the opera have become publicly available in recent years.75 By this account, the opera began in darkness with the sound of performers reading aloud from multilingual newspapers (classic media of the public sphere), aided by the elusive light of matches, lighters, and flashlights. Each time a flame would extinguish, the performer was to stop reading or turn to another's light to continue. Ono later explained that she "wanted to deal with the sound of fear and of darkness, like a child's fear that someone is behind him, but he can't speak and communicate this."76 Accordingly, she even asked a man to loom behind the audience for the duration of the concert.77 With the help of composer Richard Maxfield, Ono had attached contact microphones to performer's bodies, which would have caught the subtle sounds of the rustling newspapers, flicked matches, and clicking lighters—the kinds of sounds that "almost don't come out."78 At Carnegie Recital Hall, the dim lighting and murmuring soundscape likely strained the audience's and performers' perceptions. The scene enacts a public world of human concern, complete with the challenges of perceiving, communicating, and acting in that world when the space of appearance becomes diminished and speech indecipherable.

In dramatizing these themes, the slow temporality of AOS apparently encouraged a response of mixed boredom and suspense. As Village Voice critic Jill Johnston put it, "I was alternately stupefied and aroused, with longer stretches of stupor, as one might feel when relaxing into a doze induced by a persistent mumble of low-toned voices."79 Maciunas's precise timing of the opera's acts would likely have targeted such a response, which may at first glance be compared to Sianne Ngai's concept of "stuplimity"—an affect or aesthetic experience "in which astonishment is paradoxically united with boredom."80 Yet AOS likely also proceeded with a tedious but tragic air of foreboding that pushes it into a realm of dire suspense. Indeed, this quality likely resembled the "uncanny temporalities … of wounding anticipation" that Paul Saint-Amour associates with interwar modernism and the quintessentially modern phenomenology of bombing raids in their fusion of "trauma with the quotidian."81

The second act would seem to confirm the gist of this interpretation: it erupted in violent action as human bodies came to be treated like trash. Rather than discharging the suspense of the previous scene, the effects of suddenness in Act [End Page 58] II would likely only have amplified it, as though dramatizing Virginia Woolf's famous interwar statement and question, "The world has raised its whip; where will it descend?"82 In Act II, performers tied one another up with rope and gauze, attaching to their bodies objects like old beer cans, chairs, a table, and a toilet bowl. The contact mics would have picked up the troubling sounds of performer's constricted movements and panting. Jill Johnston saw humor in the scene "when three men rushed in and out alternately piling up and removing a toilet bowl and a weird assortment of boxes."83 But the onstage imagery would also have appeared brutal. One group of performers dragged the bound bodies across the stage, piling them up one by one as a "mountain of human bodies" while illuminating them with matches and cigarette lighters.84 Ono's notes suggest that performers should optionally pull off the bound performers' clothing, or use matches to burn their skin while simultaneously performing banal actions like drinking or reading, though no oral accounts confirm whether this happened.

Even without such extreme measures, the scene juxtaposes images of dehumanization and terror with the everyday. The mountain of human bodies brings to mind a mass grave, made all the more macabre by the suggestion that "the piled up performers should try their best to move around as much as possible," as Ono wrote. It brings to mind Sjöholm's Arendtian interpretation of "rituals of burial" in performance art, though Ono's drama of a partially animate "living dead" surely remains closer to Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism (or even to Giorgio Agamben's Remnants of Auschwitz) than to Antigone. In other words, Ono arguably created "a common space" through the "exposure of living bodies," with burial figuring not as closure but as "the beginning of something new" (as in Sjöholm's account). But this space likely responded to specific images and concepts connected with the atrocities of World War II, which informed the mimetic fictional actions onstage. Act II also follows as a seeming consequence of the linguistic confusion and failed public assembly of Act I, intimating the barest rudiments of a narrative by virtue of their sequence.

Lights finally illuminated the entire hall in Act III, the midpoint of the opera, while recordings of the previous two acts played on speakers, filling the hall with the audible memory of the work's opening while all action onstage ceased. These recordings mixed with other recorded sounds, which Ono stipulated in her notes "should be all in voice"—whether "the voice of animals or other [End Page 59] living things." In the subsequent 1962 Sogetsu Art Center performance of the piece in Tokyo, Ono played recordings of Hitler, Hirohito, and Japanese general Hideki Tojo, though it is unclear whether she played these at Carnegie Recital Hall.85 The Sogetsu version clearly situated AOS in relation to a recent totalitarian past, while Ono's choice of specifically vocal sounds foregrounded the question of the "human" within that past. This move recalls how Ono stressed the singularity of human consciousness in her critique of Cage in "The Word of a Fabricator," perhaps even bringing to mind Arendt's assertions that totalitarianism instantiated "a monstrous equality without fraternity or humanity, an equality in which dogs and cats could have shared."86

With the lights dimmed once more, the last two acts continued to juxtapose mundane images and sounds of terror. Performers conducted a banal conversation against the backdrop of an expansive torn canvas held upright like a screen. Behind the cloth, performers pierced the fabric and jutted their extremities through it, waving their limbs around like dancing, dismembered body parts.

The work culminated in an unusual finale as Ono came center stage and, in the words of Village Voice critic Jill Johnston, "concluded the work with amplified sighs, breathing, gasping, retching, screaming—many tones of pain and pleasure mixed with a jibberish [sic] of foreign-sounding language that was no language at all."87 As Ono later put it, "I wanted to throw blood."88 Trisha Brown, who participated in the performance, has recounted Ono's "aria of high-pitched wails" as having, by Ono's own account, been rooted in a personal memory that provides further meaning to her words about throwing blood. According to Brown, Ono described her "aria" as responding specifically to a childhood memory of hearing a woman give birth. (As in her show at AG Gallery, Ono continued to surround her work with self-narrative words.) In Brown's recollection, Ono tape-recorded her own simulation of the remembered birthing sounds. Ono then played that tape backwards and used her voice to imitate its backwards rendition, learning her "aria of high-pitched wails" in this fashion. Although not confirmed by other accounts, Brown recalls Ono's live aria performance at Carnegie as "accompanying a rhythmic background of repeated syllables [and] a tape recording of moans and words spoken backward."89 This extraordinary technique would have brought forth a layered multiplicity of voices, live and recorded, that scrambled or reversed time and memory. Ono's performance centered itself on her own voice, body, and persona as it [End Page 60] dramatized the birth of something new from traumatic, bloody memory following unmistakable scenes of human brutality. It was thus that Ono rendered opera and fiction, or sympathized "with the first man who lied," differentiating her work with its tragic five-act sequence and final birthing aria from a poetics of indeterminacy. Haunted by the violence of the past and anticipated wounds of the future, Ono's opera sought to build communities of solidarity in a project of rescue.


It is difficult to know what meanings performers and audience members attached to AOS, or how Ono's work became altered in the hands and minds of others. The case of Philip Corner presents a humorous but telling example, which brings further nuance to Ono's critique of Cage and her ongoing challenges in reception. In reply to a question I posed about his memories of Ono's 1961 concert, Corner explained that he "did not see much (aside from that [it] was uniformly dark) becauz Charlotte [Moorman] took me backstage saying 'We have an insensitive toiletflusher.' It was 'rigged up' and on cue i flushed. That was my introduction to that avantgarde cliché."90 The person whom Ono had originally enlisted to play that "instrument" was insensitive in timing and execution, so Moorman assigned Corner to the task. Likely integrated within an improvised electro-acoustic texture, the flushing introduced sonic imagery consistent with the toilet bowl onstage in AOS's second act, with its piling up of human bodies. This "instrument" turned an avant-garde cliché into a central part of the work's poetics, using the newest technologies in sound amplification to create a leitmotif evoking a crude disposability of life. Ono later explained that her use of toilet flushing was inspired by Cage's own use of "water sounds" in such works as "Water Music" (1952), which alternated the shaking of water vessels with the shuffling of cards, the blowing of bird whistles, and the playing of piano and radio. Yet Ono turned to this water trope in a decidedly unromantic way, insisting upon a confrontational poetics dealing with the dehumanizing violence of war rather than with the beautiful randomizations of the natural order.

It would exceed the scope of this article to document the many ways in which Ono's AOS foreshadowed or resonated with techniques and imagery in George Maciunas's Fluxus, in the dance practices of Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer, [End Page 61] in the performance art traditions identified by Cecilia Sjöholm, or in other politicized art practices that emerged in New York's 1960s downtown scene. Yet these stories still need to be written with specific attention to their shifting politics of practice. The downtown New York scene of the 1960s, like Yoko Ono's early work, figures in our historical accounts with a mixture of brilliance and obscurity. The scene and the artists themselves are iconic, but the precise manner in which Cold War consensus politics came to be collectively challenged is less apparent. As this article has argued, Hannah Arendt's work offers one helpful point of entry for such a comparative study in the arts, because it locates politics squarely in a space of appearance between intending agents, wherever they happen to be. Her work does justice to the exilic qualities of art production in the downtown scene, in contrast with the national genealogies that have celebrated postwar New York art as a revelation of American cultural ascendancy. Like Ono's work, it also conceives the acting subject as an intending agent, while dispersing agency in a web of actions beyond the control of that acting subject, posing urgent questions about the afterlife of action relevant to contemporary artists concerned with state violence during a present time of emergency.

Brigid Cohen

brigid cohen is Assistant Professor of Music at New York University. Her research centers on twentieth-century avant-gardes, migration and diaspora, and intersections of music, the visual arts, and literature. Her book Stefan Wolpe and the Avant-Garde Diaspora (2012) won the Lewis Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society. She is currently writing "Musical Migration and the Global City: New York, 1957-1963," which explores questions of displacement and citizenship in the early Cold War through a study of concert avant-gardes, electronic music, jazz, and performance art. This work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Academy in Berlin.


1. Yoko Ono, "The Word of a Fabricator," trans. Yoko Ono, in Imagine Yoko (Lund, Sweden: Bakhall, 2015), 113-19. Previously published as "Kyokosha no gen," SAC Journal 24 (May 1962).

2. In this article, I use the term "indeterminacy" in a dual sense: (1) to designate those qualities and parameters of a notated musical work not determined for performance by the score, and (2) to describe Cage's poetics that experimented expansively with elements of indeterminacy in compositional practice in the effort to distance that practice from ego and intentionality. Following Cage, "chance operation" refers to one method or technique among several that allows the composer to operate "exterior to his mind" in the generation of musical outcomes, including in the determination of score directions and features. A classic example of a chance operation is the use of coin tosses to help determine score features. John Cage, "Composition as Process," in Silence: Lectures and Writings (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 35.

3. Benjamin Piekut, "Chance and Certainty: John Cage's Politics of Nature," Cultural Critique 84 (Spring 2013): 146; and John Cage, "History of Experimental Music in the United States," in Silence, 73.

4. Ono, "The Word of a Fabricator," 115. [End Page 62]

5. Ibid., 117.

6. Ibid.

7. Alexandra Munroe, "Spirit of YES: The Art and Life of Yoko Ono," in YES Yoko Ono, ed. Alexandra Munroe (New York: Japan Society/Harry N. Abrams, 2000), 23.

8. Martin Puchner, Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Gardes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 2.

9. Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945–1961 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). I explore this question further in my forthcoming book "Musical Migration and the Global City: New York, 1957–63."

10. Rob Haskins, Anarchic Societies of Sounds: The Number Pieces of John Cage (Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag, 2009); and Branden W. Joseph, Experimentations: John Cage in Music, Art, and Architecture (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016).

11. Midori Yoshimoto, Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 81.

12. Moreover, Zen would likely not have held an unblemished appeal, given its historical association with Japanese nationalist and imperialist ideologies throughout the twentieth century. Robert H. Sharf, "The Zen of Japanese Nationalism," History of Religions 33, no. 1 (1993): 1–43.

13. My own interpretations of Ono's early career draw on foundational critical and art historical work by Bruce Altshuler, Edward M. Gómez, Jon Hendricks, Alexandra Munroe, Kristine Stiles, and Midori Yoshimoto.

14. See, for example, her appearance in a classic survey text: J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), 945.

15. These words were included in a 1964 note to Maciunas accompanying her manuscript Grapefruit, which Maciunas intended to publish. Series I, folder 927, Lila and Gilbert Silverman Fluxus Collection, Museum of Modern Art.

16. Munroe, "Spirit of YES," 23.

17. Yoko Ono, letter to David Tudor, n.d. (spring 1962), Box 57, David Tudor Papers, Getty Research Library.

18. These qualities may, however, link Ono's work with an interest in Antonin Artaud expressed by others in her circle, most notably David Tudor. Eric Smigel, "Recital Hall of Cruelty: Antonin Artaud, David Tudor, and the 1950s Avant-Garde," Perspectives of New Music 45, no. 2 (2007): 171–202.

19. Throughout her career, Ono has rarely used key terms without double or triple meanings. Her use of the term "operational" as a synonym with "efficacy" or "agency" in "The Word of a Fabricator" is one clue that leads to this particular interpretation of "opera."

20. Thomas Crow, The Rise of the Sixties: American and European Art in the Era of Dissent (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 8–9, 11. [End Page 63]

21. See, for example, Ryan Dohoney, "John Cage, Julius Eastman, and the Homosexual Ego," in Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies, ed. Benjamin Piekut (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014), 39–62; Benjamin Piekut, Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); and Joseph, Experimentations.

22. John Cage, "Experimental Music," in Silence (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1991), 12.

23. Caroline Jones, "Finishing School: John Cage and the Abstract Expressionist Ego," Critical Inquiry 19, no. 4 (1993): 656.

24. Yvonne Rainer, "Looking Myself in the Mouth," in "The New Talkies," special issue, October 17 (1981): 67.

25. Cecilia Sjöholm, "Bodies in Exile: From Tragedy to Performance Art," in The Returns of Antigone: Interdisciplinary Essays, ed. Tina Chanter and Sean D. Kirkland (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014), 283.

26. Ibid., 293.

27. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 25.

28. Hannah Arendt, The Promise of Politics (New York: Schocken, 2005), 125.

29. Arendt, The Human Condition, 198–99.

30. Yoko Ono was friends with the composer Stefan Wolpe, who was acquainted with Hannah Arendt and her husband Heinrich Blücher. Brigid Cohen, "Limits of National History: Yoko Ono, Stefan Wolpe, and Dilemmas of Cosmopolitanism," Musical Quarterly 97, no. 2 (2014): 181–237; and Cohen, "Diasporic Dialogues in Mid-Century New York: Stefan Wolpe, George Russell, Hannah Arendt, and the Historiography of Displacement," Journal of the Society for American Music 6, no. 2 (2012): 143–73.

31. Munroe, 13.

32. Yoshimoto, 92.

33. Munroe, 15–16.

34. Satofumi Kawamura, "Introduction to the 'Nishida Problem': Nishida Kitarō's Political Philosophy and Governmentality," Studies in Multicultural Societies 15 (2013): 1–13; Sharf, 20–24.

35. Quoted in Munroe, 17.

36. Arendt, The Human Condition, 274.

37. Ibid., 184.

38. Ibid., 207

39. Ibid., 206.

40. See note 15.

41. My discussion of Ono at the Loft Series here partly overlaps with my writing about the same series in "Translating Histories: Yoko Ono and George Maciunas in the Early [End Page 64] 1960s," Out of Bounds: Ethnography, History, Music, ed. Ingrid Monson, Carol J. Oja, Richard K. Wolf (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

42. Series IV B, folder 1, Lila and Gilbert Silverman Fluxus Collection, Museum of Modern Art.

43. Invitations and programs can be found in Series IV B, folders 1–2, Lila and Gilbert Silverman Fluxus Collection, Museum of Modern Art.

44. Edward M. Gómez, "Music of the Mind from the Voice of Raw Soul," in YES Yoko Ono, 233, 237.

45. Yoshimoto, 86.

46. Owen Smith, "Proto-Fluxus in the United States, 1959–1961: The Establishment of a Like-Minded Community of Artists," Visible Language 26, nos. 1 and 2 (1992): 49.

47. Smith, 49.

48. Philip Corner, email correspondence with the author, Aug. 11, 2016 and Sept. 13, 2017.

49. Yoshimoto, 86.

50. See, for example, Japan's first full-length animated film Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors, shot in 1944 and screened in 1945.

51. Ono, "To the Wesleyan People (1966)," Imagine Yoko, 103.

52. Ono, Grapefruit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).

53. Ono, cited in Barbara Haskell and John Hanhardt, Yoko Ono: Arias and Objects (Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 1991), 15.

54. Altshuler, 71.

55. Yoshimoto, 87.

56. Styra Avins, written correspondence with the author, Aug. 19, 2016. This work involved white footprints painted on the floor.

57. Styra Avins, written correspondence with the author, Oct. 18, 2017.

58. Ibid.

59. Paintings and Drawings by Yoko Ono, ed. Jon Hendricks, (Budapest: Galeria 56, 1993), 3; and Yoshimoto, 85.

60. Hendricks, 3; Owen F. Smith, Fluxus: The History of an Attitude (San Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1998), 35; and Yoshimoto, 88.

61. Hendricks, 3; and Yoshimoto, 88.

62. Hendricks, 1–2.

63. Ono, "The Word of a Fabricator," 113.

64. Ibid., 117.

65. Ibid., 115, 117.

66. Hannah Arendt, "Lying in Politics: Reflections on the Pentagon Papers," New York Review of Books, Nov. 18, 1972,

67. Ono, "The Word of a Fabricator," 117. [End Page 65]

68. Ibid., 119.

69. The New York Times noted that the 268-seat hall was "packed." A.R., "Far-Out Music is Played at Carnegie" New York Times Nov. 25, 1961.

70. Ono, "The Word of a Fabricator," 113.

71. Cohen, "Limits of National History," 210–12; and Cohen, "Translating Histories," 156.

72. Gómez, 233.

73. Philip Corner, digital correspondence with the author, Aug. 10, 2016.

74. Jonas Mekas, digitally recorded interview with the author, Brooklyn, Aug. 25, 2016.

75. Ono, "AOS, the opera, 1961," in YES Yoko Ono, 274.

76. Quoted in Jonathan Cott, "Yoko Ono and her Sixteen-Track Voice," Rolling Stone, Mar. 18, 1971,

77. Ibid.

78. Ibid.

79. Jill Johnston, "Life and Art," Village Voice 7, no. 7 (7 Dec. 1961): 10.

80. Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 271.

81. Paul K. Saint-Amour, Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 20, 96.

82. As cited in Ibid., 1.

83. Johnston, 10.

84. Kristine Stiles, "Being Undyed: The Meeting of Mind and Matter in Yoko Ono's Events," in YES Yoko Ono, 147. See also Ono, "AOS, the opera, 1961," 274.

85. Yoshimoto, 93; and Donald Richie, "Tsumazuita saizensen: Ono Yōko no zen'ei shō [Stumbling Front Line: Yoko Ono's Avant-Garde Show], Geijutsu shinchō 17, no. 7 (1962): 60–61, translated in Ono, et al., Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015), 122–23.

86. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Schocken Books, 2004), 620–21.

87. Johnston, 10.

88. Quoted in Mark Kemp, "She Who Laughs Last: Yoko Ono Reconsidered," Option, Music Alternatives 45 (July/August 1992): 78.

89. Quoted in Susan Rosenberg, Trisha Brown: Choreography as Visual Art (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2017), 26.

90. Philip Corner, digital correspondence with the author, Aug. 10, 2016. [End Page 66]

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