Marina Abramovič is one of the most popular performance artists alive. Probably everyone remembers at least one of her performances, maybe without knowing it’s hers. For example, there is one that became very famous thanks to the incrediblt romantic video that came out of it: we are speaking about The Artist is Present (2010). Abramovič was sitting in front of a little table, and she was dressed with a long red dress. She had to close her eyes, wait for someone to sit in front of her and then open her eyes and look at them for one minute, maintaining the eye contact. Unespectedly Ulay, another performance artist who was engaged with her before their break up in 1988, showed up at the performance, and she saw him opening her eyes. Then she couldn’t stay in the character anymore, and took his hand letting a tear flow. You can see the video here, if you are one of the few that have not seen it yet.

After this little reminder, let’s focus on the specific art performance we are talking about: Rhythm 0. In this performance she presented herself as an object to the public, allowing everyone to play with her body, and to use everything they wanted on her, choosing from 74 objects she previously selected, for six hours straight. Between those 74 objects, there were also a rose, scissors, a razor blade, and a gun loaded with one bullet. The spectators began touching her, offering her the rose and kissing her. But then the whole situation got more and more violent, the razor blade was used on her skin, and someone cut her throat to drink her blood from it, and some sexual assaults were persued.

She was totally committed to the performance, so that she didn’t oppose to anything it was happening. After the six hours, someone put the gun in her hands, against her head, and played with the trigger. The performance was there interrupted.

The artist said at the end: “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.” In fact, people couldn’t stand her not being an object anymore, and just couldn’t face the guilt.

Marina Abramovič never defined herself as a feminist, although some of her works may suggest so. In this case, the will of becoming an object in the hands of people, probably symbolizes the objectification of the female body. But, as we said, the artist always denied to be tagged as a radical feminist, and never confirmed this theory.

The photos of the performance are for sure very powerful, we will leave some of them at the end of this article.

We strongly suggest to take a look at the other performances of the artist, as some of them are very extreme and very touching. For a quick overview, the Wikipedia page about her is very well written.

– M.C.

Bibliography and further readings:

ABRAMOVIC Marina, Walk Through Walls: A Memoir, Penguin, 2017

ESSLING Lena, Marina Abramovic: The Cleaner, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2017

Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present [DVD]


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