DISCLAIMER: All of this information has come from Wikipedia and an interview with Lady Gaga that I found on YouTube. My knowledge on this article is narrow. But it is one I wanted to share, because I think it speaks volumes.

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Her name is Marina Abramović.

She’s 66 years old. She’s from Serbia and based in NY. And she’s a performance artist.

For the of you who don’t know what performance art is, it’s essentially any form of art that is done in the presence of a live audience – that’s a broad definition, but performance art has taken on a broad role, so it fits.

The particular story that I want to relay through this post is this.

The piece:

“Rhythm 0, 1974”

The idea, loosely explained, was to test the limits binding the performer and the audience to their furthest degree. She did this by assigning herself a horrifically passive role, where she would stand, for six hours, in an open space, behind a table with carefully chosen objects laid upon it, and a sign explaining what she was doing, and that she would take full responsibility for what was to happen to her.

On the table, the objects she used consisted of things that could be used for pleasure, and objects that could be used for pain, as far as death:

A rose. A feather. Grapes. Honey. A condom. A whip. A scalpel. A gun. And a single bullet.

Apparently, as she explains in the interview, beginning the performance, her audience was quite playful. They were hesitant and reserved and did not think to push the boundaries.

Later, they became more aggressive.  She explains it as “6 hours of real horror.” Where people tore at her clothes. Pierced her skin with a rose’s stem. Cut her with a knife and drank her blood. They carried her around, half naked, laid her down on the table and stabbed the knife in between her legs, driving it into and through the table’s surface.

It got to the stage where somebody put the bullet into the gun, and held it at her head with a finger on the trigger. Another member of the audience brushed this person aside, and diffused the situation. Another person tried to have sex with her, until (assumedly “he”) he was deterred by someone else. The tension was thick, real.

After the six hours had lapsed, after she had been caressed, pricked, cut, scalded, almost raped, and almost shot in the head, the gallery’s supervisor came and said that the act was now over. She walked forward toward the audience, naked, with blood dripping from her skin, tears in her eyes. The result?

Everybody ran away. Not one person was willing to confront her active state.

She explained that that night, when she was staring at herself in the mirror of her hotel room, that she saw a long, single strand of white hair.

I don’t believe in God. And I don’t believe that anyone is a “real” or “authentic” prophet – that is to say, I don’t believe that people are hand picked and sent down from “heaven” to lead us.

However, there is something hauntingly beautiful about this woman, eerie. Her eyes are possessed with only presence. I had tears in my eyes – not when I read the story or listened to a video of her explaining what happened during this process – but rather, and simply, when I watched her do a promotional video for a piece that she did for MoMa.

There is just something about her eyes that speak so clearly without words.

The link for that video is here, just click this line.

There’s not much more I’ve to say about this. No running commentary. Think of it whatever you will. I simply wanted to do my part by sharing the story. A story that I personally felt to be beyond awe. Beyond words.

Truly transcending beauty.


Join the conversation! 22 Comments

  1. I many not know Art – but i know what i like…

    Generally, i don’t like ‘performance’ art…gives me the creepy feeling i’m being conned in some way.

    • I suppose it can have that effect. But really, all art’s kind of a con, isn’t it? People are getting paid to express a certain story that they see in their head. This whole life’s a fucking con if you ask me.

      • not all art is a con. but yeah..this sounds like a con. portrait does evoke a sense of silent screaming stifled only by detachment. But the story..even if her life was saved..what of the audience members? A higher power would preserve her life as she used ‘art’ to compromise the partakers’ moral-standing/soul/whatever? Wow..very thought provoking. And personally ironic. So, not a waste of time. Well done, sir.

        • I was kinda joking by saying all art’s a con. To me, art is the only thing in this world that keeps me going. The rest is all gratuitous. Though most might think that to be the other way around. And with the story, I don’t think she did it to ‘save’ her life? Did you read that somewhere? It was merely, but quite powerfully, an experiment to test how people will react to someone who is in a totally passive state. To test the nature of humanness, which is, at its core, fucking barbaric. Or, beautiful, I suppose. However you want to look at it.

  2. It’s ironic that I read your post today of all days. I just did a performance piece last night, for an exhibition opening… ummmm, it wasn’t ANYTHING like this. This is an incredible!

    • Is that what you do with the most of your time? Cause if it is, that’s pretty damned cool. It is pretty incredible, isn’t it? Yes, is the answer.

      • I’m an arts support worker, so I do a bit of stuff in this field. But this is the first piece I’ve done for myself. I was asked to read a piece of writing at the opening; I’ve done reading a few times, and I hate how it feels. So I offered to do a performance piece instead. I pre-recorded myself reading, layered it with the sound of a heart beat, and then sat on an Edwardian arm chair under a lamp. The audience watched me drink wine and flick through a magazine while they listened to my reading of ‘Place of Power’. I’m going to do more of it though, because this really got my juices flowing.

  3. thank you for telling us about this artist. i watched her interview – i believe art is 24/7 everywhere – we are all performers – what is neat is when someone recognizes that and takes it to a platform by giving it a name – what did she call the piece that you describe? passivity is everywhere and her demonstration showed how different people react to it. i know people who say they are “door mats” and don’t like what they get because of it, but it doesn’t stop them from being doormats.


    • “Rhythm 0, 1974.” I think.

      And yeah, life is but a stage, and we are all pawns . . . or something; I’m pretty vague with my Shakespeare. Hah. And you’re welcome, Jackie. I thought it deserved to be shared. Even though she’s like already famous and stuff, whatever. Glad you liked it like I did.

  4. Amazing. She is amazing and brave. And the audience members who held the gun and attempted rape are megafuckedup.

    • Agreed and agreed. It just goes to show how animalistic we, the “civilised,” really are at our core. We’re a bunch of hairless apes with large pre frontal cortexes – that’s all.

  5. Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    People are animals; more beastly than the creatures we term as animals. or beastly and this proves it. This is so horrific and cruel I want to cry. Not because she was a woman. I am also afraid to think what would happen if this was a man.

  6. […] blunt object.  I’m looking to examples from artists such as Maria Abramović with her piece Rhythm 0, 1974.  It’s intimidating and I need to be safe (as I’ve been cautioned by my wife, my […]

  7. i dont know what she meant when she found a whit hair in her head thats soo weird im curiuos

  8. i dont understand when she said that she found a white hair in her head

  9. I can assure you, having met her through work (and not in an art context) and had one of the most intimate and amazing conversations of my life with her, she is the most real and sincerely intense people I have met and I know for a fact she is meticulous and serious about her art. It tells us more about human nature in one performance than me and my colleagues try to tease apart in our work as neuropsychologists.


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