Art Critic Gets Trapped in Bag at MoMA’s Yoko Ono Gala

THE DAILY PIC: Her "Bag Piece" turns our writer into a guinea pig.

THE DAILY PIC (#1310):

The other night, at a deluxe preview of MoMA’s “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show”, I was one of few guests (maybe the only one) to try out her 1964 work called Bag Piece, in which she invites viewers to climb inside a black cloth bag and do – whatever they want. (See the video below of … me in an Ono! Watch to the end to win a special German treat.)

I had studied “professionals” animating the work first, and they looked like peaceable moving boulders, or like Henry Moores gone kinetic. What really surprised me, when I climbed in myself, was how utterly different the experience was for the living bag than for its spectators. It also confirmed some of the smart ideas in a review of the show by my colleague Ben Davis.

Your very first emotion is a tiny moment of panic, as you feel trapped and the world fades to black around you. How do I get out when I’m done? HELP! Pretty soon, however,  your eyes adjust and you realize that the bag is quite translucent, as can’t be told from outside. You can see the crowd around you, even if all they can see is your bag on the floor.

For anyone with the least hint of narcissism, that suddenly turns your every action into an actorly performance; the piece stops being about feeling yourself inside the bag trapped in a spotlight and understanding that sensory experience, but instead comes to be about how you think others are taking you in, and trying to give them something worth looking at. It also makes you realize that this is precisely how most artists feel as they produce work. Yoko may have always sought her share of the limelight, but being on stage is part of almost every artist’s life.

The rhetoric around Ono’s early, “instruction-set” works is that they get artist and viewer to switch roles; with Bag Piece, at least, that’s far more than hyperbole.

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