January 4, 2015

Shorts: Marina Abramovic, "Rythm 0"

Title: Rhythm 0
Artist: Marina Abramovic
Date: 1974
Performance: 6 hours (8pm-2am)
Gallery: Studio Morra, Naples

In an already male dominated art world women artists in the 70s found an outlet for expression in the new and growing medium of performance art. Many critics though criticized these works as masochistic, exhibitionist, and sensationalist. In response, Marina Abramovic took a completely passive stance in her piece Rhythm 0, allowing the audience complete control over what happened during the performance.

Instructions: There are 72 objects on this table that can be used on me as desired.
Performance: I am the object. During this time I take full responsibility.

The objects on the table ranged from benign to harmful including varying colors of paint, a rose, a feather, honey, soap, a hat, yarn, scissors, a whip, a gun, and a bullet. "I really wanted to take this risk." She said later, "I wanted to know what is the public about and what will they do in this kind of a situation." (Marina Abramovic Institute)

Describing the experience she said, "In the beginning the public was really very much playing with me. Later on it became more and more aggressive. It was six hours of real horror."

She continues, "They would cut my clothes, they would cut me with the knife close to my neck, drink my blood, then put the plaster over the wound. They would carry me around half naked, put me on the table, and stuck the knife between my legs into the wood. And even somebody put a bullet in the pistol and put it in my hand and seeing if I would press it, her hand against my hand, if I would resist.

"But I remember after six hours when the gallerists come and say this piece is finished that I start being myself. I start walking to the audience, you know, naked, with blood, and tears in my eyes. Everybody ran away. Literally ran out of the door." (MoMA Multimedia

"People could not actually confront with me as a person." (Marina Abramovic Institute)

Abramovic has described this piece as her heaviest and most difficult she has performed in all her years as an artist. She took the control completely out of her hands, and took part in a passivity that erased her individuality and humanity in the eyes of her audience. In the sterile environment of the gallery (in which she could isolate only the variables she wished to include) she revealed how quickly we can come to perceive one another as a mere object and what we are capable of when given power without consequences or limits.

And beyond this Abramovic made a successful response to the critics of her preferred medium. Allowing such extremes as she did can allow a person to test the limits of the mind and body and to isolate ideas and truths that may otherwise be opaque and unreachable. She didn't choose the performance to go as far as it did but Rhythm 0 would have been nothing without her allowing it to happen.

PS- You may remember Marina from this amazing video. Featured at the bottom of this post. :)

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