Rhythm 0 was a six-hour work of performance art by Serbian artist Marina Abramović in Studio Morra, Naples in 1974. The work involved Abramović standing still while the audience was invited to do to her whatever they wished, using one of 72 objects she had placed on a table. These included a rose, feather, perfume, honey, bread, grapes, wine, scissors, a scalpel, nails, a metal bar, and a gun loaded with one bullet.
There were no separate stages. Abramović and the visitors stood in the same space, making it clear that the latter were part of the work. The purpose of the piece, she said, was to find out how far the public would go: "What is the public about and what are they going to do in this kind of situation?"
Her instructions were placed on the table:
There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.
I am the object.
During this period I take full responsibility.
Duration: 6 hours (8 pm – 2 am).
Abramović said the work "pushed her body to the limits". Visitors were gentle to begin with, offering her a rose or a kiss. Art critic Thomas McEvilley, who was present, wrote:
It began tamely. Someone turned her around. Someone thrust her arms into the air. Someone touched her somewhat intimately. The Neapolitan night began to heat up. In the third hour all her clothes were cut from her with razor blades. In the fourth hour the same blades began to explore her skin. Her throat was slashed so someone could suck her blood. Various minor sexual assaults were carried out on her body. She was so committed to the piece that she would not have resisted rape or murder. Faced with her abdication of will, with its implied collapse of human psychology, a protective group began to define itself in the audience. When a loaded gun was thrust to Marina's head and her own finger was being worked around the trigger, a fight broke out between the audience factions."
As Abramović described it later: "What I learned was that ... if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you ... I felt really 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."
When the gallery announced the work was over, and Abramović began to move again, she said the audience left, unable to face her as a person.
Rhythm 0 ranked ninth on a Complex list of the greatest works of performance art ever done.
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