Performance Artist Stood Still For 6 Hours to Let People Do What They Wanted to Her Body

Humanity hasn’t been known for being the kindest or gentlest creatures on the planet. In fact, we’ve done more terrible things to each other than every other living species alive today, but the strange part is how we not only know this already, we hardly seem to care.

Yugoslavian performance artist Marina Abramovic has been a part of or has staged interactive art pieces for the past 40 years, and many may recall her silent reunion piece with former lover Frank Uwe “Ulay” Laysiepen. This heartwarming reconnection was a true piece of art into the human emotion, but she’s taken it one step further with her new installation dubbed “Rhythm 0” at a studio in Naples, Italy. To this date, it’s one of the most twisted and emotional pieces she’s ever done.

At first, only photographers were going near her.

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Rhythm 0 had a very simple layout. Marina was going to stand still from 8pm through 2am for a total of 6 hours while her audience was allowed to do whatever they wanted with her. Near where she was standing was a table with 72 different items on it; some of these items were as harmless as a feather while others were as deadly as a pistol, but that was the point. At the start of the night only the present photographers were brave enough to get close to her.

After a while, people began picking stuff from the table.

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Abramovic stood in the middle of the room with a notice board containing these words:

Instructions.
There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.
Performance.
I am the object.
During this period I take full responsibility.
Duration: 6 hours (8 pm – 2 am)

Some people made her sit down so they could humiliate her.

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It wasn’t long before other participants began coming out of the woodwork though, and then the piece really began digging into the human psyche. The instructions for the piece were written on a large board behind her, where she also noted she took full responsibility for everything that occurred through the night. The audience was given an out.

There were those who changed her position.

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What happened in the next six hours was horrifying, to say the least.

There were people who liked to attach things to her.

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Art critic Thomas McEvilley who observed the performance related:

“It began tamely. Someone turned her around. Someone thrust her arms into the air. Someone touched her somewhat intimately.”

One man used a razor to make a cut on her neck.

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Then, as McEvilley went on to disclose,

“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. 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.”

It just got worse in the last two hours.

Someone made her point a gun at herself.

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It didn’t stop there. Eventually the audience got hold of the pistol and forced Marina to aim it at herself. She was bloodied and bruised, doing her best to sit through the entirety of the piece as she’d originally wanted. The remaining two hours continued to get worse.

Abramovic’s own account of what the people did to her was even more heartbreaking.

She recalled,

“I felt raped, they cut off the clothes, they stuck me with thorns of rose in the stomach, aimed the gun to my head, another came apart.”

Some men undressed her and groped her.

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The remainder of the six hours went about as horrifically as you could expect.

The violence and sexual harassment escalated.

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“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. 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.”

Listen to Marina Abramovic talk about her frightening experience.

Marina noted that after the time limit was reached, hardly anyone present was bold enough to make eye contact with her. She was groped, undressed and sported cuts all over her body – someone had even attached a thorny crown to her stomach – but no one wanted to take responsibility for any of it. They didn’t want to face their own twisted pleasure, even though they’d taken part in it not even a couple hours prior.

Abramovic noted:

“This work reveals something terrible about humanity. It shows how fast a person can hurt you under favorable circumstances. It shows how easy it is to dehumanize a person who does not fight, who does not defend himself. It shows that if he provides the stage, the majority of ‘normal’ people, apparently can become truly violent.”