It is astonishing how people turn violent when given favorable circumstances. Marina Abramovic, a Yugoslav performance artist, also known as the “grandmother of performance art,” did a daring act when she stood as a puppet in front of the public for six hours and let people do whatever they wanted.
The famous “Rhythm 0” performance in 1974
The performance, famously known as “Rhythm 0,” tested the relationship between the performer and the audience. But, it was a horrific experience for Abramovic as she felt raped.
In her own words, she explains that the performance showed them how fast a person can hurt you under favorable circumstances, and it also showed how easy it is to dehumanize a person who does not fight and does not want to defend himself.
Abramovic offered 72 objects on a table to be used on her body
During the performance, which was conducted for six hours between 8 PM and 2 AM, Abramovic placed 72 objects on a table and allowed people to use them on her body as desired. While some of the objects would give pleasure, others could be used to inflict pain. The objects included a rose, feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a blade, a gun, and bullet.
People were allowed to use those stuff on Abramovic’s body. She wanted to test how aggressive a human can become when free from social consequences. To her dismay, at the end of the performance, her body was stripped and attacked from almost all corners.
Abramovic was undressed and groped
Abramovic was undressed and groped. Her blouse was opened, exposing her breasts. There were acts of violence and sexual harassment. Audience members made cuts on her neck, and her clothes were cut off her body. A man used a razor to make a cut on his neck. Blades were used to make cuts on her clothes and body.
The performance started tamely but turned violent as time progressed
People did all sorts of stuff to Marina Abramovic. It started tamely, but as time progressed, it turned violent. It all began with offering roses and kisses. Some people made her sit down so that they could do whatever they wanted to. People also changed her position. Some people tried to attach a few things to her. Some people touched her intimately.
Abramovic’s art also represented the objectification of the female body, as she was almost motionless and looked like a puppet. It allowed the public to do whatever they wanted to and push the limits of what is acceptable in society.
Abramovic says if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you
“I learned that … if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you. … I felt violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away to escape an actual confrontation,” said Abramovic.
Abramovic was stunned at the end as the performance could also turn fatal for her. Apart from the sexual assaults on her body, people pointed a loaded gun toward her.
Audience was unable to face Abramovic when the performance was over
Marina Abramovic started to move toward the audience when the performance was over. The audience suddenly left that place. They felt they were unable to face her as a person.
At the end of the performance, Abramovic observed that people did not want any sort of confrontation. They shrugged off what they had done throughout the last six hours. They didn’t want to be held responsible or judged for their actions on her body. She said the audience wanted to forget how they loved hurting her during the performance.