The Ochanomizu Drop,
1964/Cut Piece, Yoko Ono, 1965

High Red Center

This was a Japanese group of performance artists briefly active in the mid 1960’s. They worked both individually and as a group. Affiliated artists were Jiro Takamatsu, Genpei Akasegawa, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, and to a lesser degree, Yoko Ono.

High Red Center did a series of performance art pieces and public demonstrations designed to emphasize the performance’s incongruity with the modern world. The medium, the happening, was selected to suggest the spontaneity of the event. Although closely influenced greatly influenced by Gutai, High Red Center had stronger focus on reflections on social interactions, society, and humanness in their performances. One artist, Nakanishi Natsuyuki, covered his face with clothespins and walked around the streets of Tokyo, observing the responses of passers-by. After he was done, he pinned the metal clothespins to a canvas and burned it, thereby destroying all traces of his work (except photographs) and its material, art market value.

Clothespins Assert Churning Action

5th Mixer Project (performance/happening)


The artists also did several performances that directly challenged the consumerist nature of modern society. For example, they did several “drops” where they would take various consumer goods such as machines and clothing and drop them from a height. They would then gather them up, put them in a random locker somewhere in the city and give someone the key. This emphasized a total disregard for modern consumerist behavior, both in the demonstrated apathy to the items and in the act of giving them away.

The Ochanomizu Drop



A similar performance took place during Japan’s preparation for the Olympic games, where the Japanese government reorganized the city and altered some social conventions. For example, they encouraged citizens to engage in more sanitary behaviors such as not spitting on the curb. High Red Center dressed in face masks and lab coats and scrubbed the streets, mocking the policies of the government. This was as much a demonstration as a commentary on the mentality of the society, as they were not bothered but believed by many of the bystanders.

Movement to Promote the Cleanup of the Metropolitan Area (Be Clean!)



In a performance with a similar agenda, in 1964 Yoko Ono staged Cut Piece, a performance where she sat still on the stage and invited the (paying) audience to cut away her clothing with scissors. This piece revealed issues such as the objectification of humans (and women) through financial contract and the sometimes crude desires enabled by permission, thus allowing this piece to be easily read as a critique of capitalism.

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