Rhythm 0, was a six-hour art performance by the Serbian artist Marina Abramovic in Naples in 1974. She is known for performing art that surrounds the theme of personal risk and suffering; where she takes the physicality of the body, endurance, pain, and the staging of real live actions, and displays them in an experimental way. In this particular performance, Abramovic set out 72 objects on a table that both represented pain and pleasure. The items ranged from feathers and lipstick, to an ax, saw, and even a loaded gun. Her instructions to the audience that wished to participate, were that one can use any of the 72 objects on her as they desired. She said that during this period, she takes full responsibility of the actions that transpire. During those six hours, Abramovic stood still while the audience was invited to do to her whatever they wished. She shared, that she went in prepared to die, because she learned that if you leave the decision making up to the audience, they can kill you. She said how she felt extremely violated throughout those six hours, as the audience cut up her clothes, stuck rose thorns in her stomach, and one person even aimed the gun at her head. After the six hours were up, she walked towards the audience covered in blood and tears, for them to all run away because they could not face her after the inhumane acts made upon her. Abramovic described the purpose of the piece, saying that it was a way to find out how far the public would go in this kind of situation. This performance created a rather aggressive atmosphere, and showed the concealed disturbing urges some people possess. This piece, although unsettling, was extremely eye opening, and makes you second guess the people you see in your everyday life.

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Taylor Schweer

32 thoughts on “Rhythm 0

  1. This was a very interesting artwork to consider. I found it intriguing that she described herself feeling violated when she was the one initiating this art piece, however, I can understand that from the perspective of discovering what people are willing to do that they didn’t have to. On that, what I found even more shocking was the ways people behaved– that they could get themselves to physically harm the artist when there was no need. I then found it interesting that in the end those people couldn’t face her, when they did indeed go through with their actions. I think this really speaks to human nature.

  2. This art piece to me, is in a way controversial because this artist puts all these items on a table and tells people to do whatever with them for ‘art’ purposes. however, I was thinking about how this would be interpreted if someone didn’t say I’m an artist and this is art but did the same things as this artist. I think that it would not be received well by the public and people could see them as a crazy person trying to harm themselves by getting others to do it for them. This is completely unrelated to the fact that I think this piece is strong and insightful on society because, the artist went in ready to die, and although they didn’t shoot her they pointed the gun in her face. It is still very shocking to see all the things they did do to her and it brings to light all these urges that people had to do these acts on the artist just because they were given a pass to do so.

  3. This is a really interesting way to find the limits and urges that people have. We don’t know how far a person might go in anything unless they get the chance to try and let go off their imagination. I admire her dedication to her art and overall the fact that she didn’t press charges on the people that did horrendous things to her, but given that there were certain things that people could’ve used against her and even killed her, she kept going and continued with her work.

  4. This piece is one I often come across and think about. It shows the natural evil of the world, along with the inability for people to face and accept their actions. One of the interesting things about this piece is that is that when the person held the loaded gun to her head, no one stopped them until a decent amount of time had passed and one person decided to step in and make the person stop. This piece just shows how little people respect an individual and their life. The fact that people took in their urges and released them onto an individual they didn’t know shows the lack of care towards humanity. The artist was so brave to perform this piece, and it is one of the most powerful I have seen.

  5. I love this art exhibition, because it confirms my opinion that the world is full of bad people, and would do bad things if they had the chance. It also shows that bad people are unable to face the fact that they are bad, and would avoid thinking about the bad that they have done if they have the option to run away.

  6. I absolutely love this display, as well as others like it. Its horrifying to see what people will do with the promise of no consequences, but I really hope that everyone sees what installations like this one show us about the human disposition. I think it is particularly powerful how she chose to approach the audience, to force them to come to terms with what they did, and they still couldn’t. Powerful stuff.

  7. I think what’s so interesting is how jarring the difference is when people knew Abramovic wouldn’t move from her position, the audience treated her as an object to carry out any desires they normally wouldn’t but the second that she stepped away from being the art, it was like the audience came to terms with the fact that they would be willing to harm someone just because they could. It almost goes back to the theory of social psych that when we know we can be judged and perceived by others we tend to act in a manner that is more polished and “acceptable” but when no one is watching or no one can fight back, we’re totally cool with tapping into violent tendencies.

  8. This is definitely a fascinating piece of art. Just like she said, you have to be well prepared when you are handling the power that can decide your life to the public. I heard of the story so many time and I still kept thinking about it. Part of me still can’t believe people are hurting her in that short time. It kind of reminds me of the internet environment nowadays, when people can be so mean when they are hidden behind the screen. People can be horrible sometimes without regulation and laws.

  9. This was very interesting to read and it almost reminds me of the crucifixion article that I read of an artist playing out a real life crucifixion for the sake of art. I think cases like these are very extreme and unimaginable even. It’s incredible interesting to learn about the extreme lengths that artists will take to differentiate themselves from the rest. I think this case shows us another side of humanity and the actions that people are capable of committing when given the chance.

  10. This was very interesting to read and it almost reminds me of the crucifixion article that I read of an artist playing out a real life crucifixion for the sake of art. I think cases like these are very extreme and unimaginable even. It’s incredibly interesting to learn about the lengths that artists will take to differentiate themselves from the rest. I think this case shows us another side of humanity and the actions that people are capable of committing when given the chance.

  11. The art provides a unique lens through which one can explore aspects of human behavior. The experiment raises questions about the boundaries of human morality, the potential for violence and aggression in a given context, and the dynamics of power and control. It reveals how individuals, when granted permission and anonymity, can exhibit behavior that crosses societal norms and engages in acts of violence and harm. It highlights the importance of context and situational factors in shaping human behavior, demonstrating how the absence of external constraints can lead to a breakdown of inhibitions and unleash aggressive tendencies.

  12. Abramovic’s willingness to endure violation, and her preparedness to face death is incredibly interesting.This piece poses as unsettling and eye-opening as it prompts us to consider the complexities of humans and the disturbing urges that can be concealed within individuals when presented with someone incapable of stopping them.

  13. Abramovic’s commitment to this piece is inspiring. It is natural instinct to want to protect yourself against any harm in your environment and that fact that she was able to overcome this instinct and stay still while strangers hurt her is astonishing. When people are allowed to hide their actions behind a group of people doing the same thing, Abramovic’s piece displays how dangerous the environment can get. Imagine if someone had actually used the loaded gun? What would the audience have done? More importantly, would they rush to Abramovic’s aide or not view it as a crime since she “asked” them to do whatever they wanted to her?

  14. Rhythm 0, provides a unique lens through which one can explore aspects of human behavior from a criminological perspective. The experiment raises questions about the boundaries of human morality, the potential for violence and aggression in a given context, and the dynamics of power and control. The performance offers insights into the dark and unsettling side of human nature. It reveals how individuals, when granted permission and anonymity, can exhibit behavior that crosses societal norms and engages in acts of violence and harm. It highlights the importance of context and situational factors in shaping human behavior, demonstrating how the absence of external constraints can lead to a breakdown of inhibitions and unleash aggressive tendencies.

  15. I absolutely adore this piece. This reminds me of another artist who did something similar to this. However, it is insane to me that she laid out a LOADED gun in her display. It is also really sad that she was prepared to die because she knows/thinks that the audience would have the confidence and stuff to torture her. Sad to know that when given the freedom to do or say anything, people will do the worst things possible.

  16. It’s hard to imagine how vulnerable she must have felt throughout this experience. Especially after the first person decided to hurt her, and then the next, and the next, etc..

    I’m only loosely familiar with her pieces, but am really intrigued to go and learn more about her art & this piece specifically

  17. This is a fascinating performance art piece. I thought that it was interesting that she was willing to subject herself to the will of the audience, and it’s even more interesting how the audience ran away at the end of the piece. In a way, the audience’s reaction is a part of the art. They were content watching her go through these experiences, yet when Abramovic’s six hours ended and she was free, they did not want to stay any longer.

  18. This performance piece is so powerful and underrated. I feel like more people should learn about it. I myself have only learned about it earlier this year but I found it so fascinating when I did. Marina Abramovic is incredibly brave and admirable for allowing herself to go through this for her art. The most shocking part to me is the fact that people went through with harming her despite being around multiple people. Who took the first step in doing harm to her? Were they not thinking about how the other people in the room would perceive them? Unfortunately, once the initial step of harm was taken I’m sure it allowed the others in the room who may have been thinking about harming her too to actually do so.

  19. Reading this article reminds me of the Purge movies. if you give people free rein to do whatever they please you will be shocked by some of the horrific things they decided to do. Humans are still animals and as evolved as we think we are we tend to behave like them when none is looking (or when there are no repercussions). That experience sounds extremely traumatizing and I am sorry he has to endure it even if she wanted to. From a legal point of view, I am curious how no one was able to be punished for their actions – if someone had killed her, even if it was consensual, it was still manslaughter.

  20. This piece is fascinating as it uses art as means to test human morals. This experiment attempts to show why people do crime by removing legal consequences associated with any action committed. The brutal actions of participants in this piece show how a fear of legal punishment or social ostracization prevent people from doing crime, and that when these punishments are removed, people will act on their criminal urges. While the specific reason for each individual’s actions are different and unknown, they invite many questions regarding why people do and don’t do crime.

  21. What struck me most was the participant’s inability to look at Abramovic after they inflicted all the pain onto her, but were able to watch her endure the treatment they gave her. Also, for Abramovic to be prepared to die going into the art space is a level of courage that I cannot fathom. It is very disturbing that this would be the outcome, and that there would be a crowd of people who would be able to go through with such torturous acts.

  22. The first time I heard about this performance I was shocked then horrified. It’s scary to see what some people are capable of. I admire Marina for her extreme bravery. It makes me think what would have happened if the performance wasn’t in public, or if there were less people present.

  23. The first time I heard about this performance I was shocked and the horrified. It’s so scary to hear and see what some people are capable of. I admire Marina for her extreme bravery. This performance makes you think about what would happen if this wasn’t a public performance, or if there were less people there. What would’ve happened?

  24. The first time I heard about this performance I was shocked. This art piece is so unique, so unsettling, and for me it created an impeding sense of doom and hopelessness. It made me question the human nature, and it made me wonder if there is any truth in the statement that humans are inherently evil. Seeing a room filled with people partake in a behavior that only got more violent, make it hard to question this idea. I think this is the beauty of Abramovic´s art; It makes people feel, it makes people think, and most importantly, it makes people question. By her willingness to offer herself as a blank canvas, we were able to see the how the audience projected on to her the gut-wrenching reality of the horrors that makes human behavior. However, as I read more about the performance I learned that not everyone took part in hurting her. There were also a group of people that though they were a minority in the room, took upon themselves to protect her. They stopped the audience from firing the gun, they wiped her tears and they feed her; these might seem like small things considering everything that was allowed to be done to her, but they reflect another truth than discussed above. They show that while there are people who are willing to do horrible things to others, there are also people who aren’t, who are instead instinctively willing to protect someone.

  25. Initially, I was overcome with shock when reading about this- why would someone willingly subject themselves to the sickness of the perverse human mind with promise of no negative repercussions? But I thought more about it, she put her life on the line, ready to die, knowing many of the possibilities of ways in which she could be harmed, yet she still came out of it shocked by the things people did. This truly shows how sick the human mind can be when given the promise of no consequences and full freedom- one could argue this could be a small snippet of a modern day state of nature.

  26. I remember reading about this performance years ago, and it shocked me that people would go so far as to harm the woman even though she is purposefully not responding to the cues. Her art shows that people will still take out undesirable urges on weaker people even if they know it’s wrong.

  27. This is a shocking thing for me. I can see how cruel people can be to other people. I did not think people would do it up to that point because it was public. However, it scares me that people can be cruel to others more than I think.

  28. This is a very interesting piece. Abramovic clearly wanted to see how far random people would go in terms of crime when there are no believed legal repercussions. It is unsettling hearing that people were cruel to her during a 6-hour time frame, however, I believe that it only took a few people to do harsh things to her to convince others that it was acceptable.

  29. As unsettling as this performance is, the idea behind it and the results it achieved are interesting. I was surprised to read that people violated her in such a crowded setting. I imagine if it was a more private setting or just the artist and one other person, someone with harmful urges or intentions might take complete advantage of that. It shows that people are capable and are likely to act on their feelings if it was permitted, or private.

  30. As unsettling this performance is, the idea behind it and the results it achieved are interesting. I was surprised to read that people had violated her in such a crowded setting, I imagine that if it was more private or with only the artist and one person around, someone with harmful urges or intentions would take complete advantage. Overall it portrays that people are capable and likely to act on their feelings, if permitted to, or if in a private setting.

  31. I have heard about his art piece before. It’s unsettling to learn about how far the group took things and makes you wonder how such a thing could happen

  32. This sounds very interesting and frightening all at the same time. I would not do it, but seeing what people can do is eye-opening. I can imagine the results were worse in a crowd than if she had just asked one person to use the items. As people are together, they tend to think less for themselves and are influenced by others in their acts.

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