Rhythm 0 is a performance by Marina Abramovic, which turned into quite dangerous anthropological experiment. The performance happened in Naples in 1976. The artist stood in the gallery space, fully dressed, in a room with seventy-two objects that were placed on the long table with white tablecloth.

Instructions: “There are seventy-two objects on the table that one can use on me as desired. I am taking the whole responsibility for 6 hours. There are objects for pain, objects for pleasure

Objects: gun, bullet, blue, paint, comb, bell, whip, lipstick, pocket knife, fork, perfume, spoon, cotton, flowers, matches, rose, candle, mirror, drinking glass, polaroid camera, feather, chains, nails, needle, safety pin, hairpin, brush, bandage, red paint, white paint, scissors, pen, book, sheet of white paper, kitchen knife, hammer, saw, piece of wood, stick, bone of lamb, newspaper, bread, wine, honey, salt, sugar, soap, cake, metal spear, box of razor blades, dish, flute, Band Aid, alcohol, medal, coat, shoes, chair, leather strings, yarn, wire, sulphur, grapes, olive oil, water, hat, metal, pipe, rosemary branch, scarf, handkerchief, scalpel, apple.

The objects that could be ‘used on her’ were chosen to represent pain, pleasure and objects that could bring about one’s death. I would like to highlight the order in which the participants used props. In the beginning the participants were creating more pleasurable experiences and using less violent props, like a feather, honey, hairbrush to brush artists hair. “Someone turned her around. Someone thrust her arms into the air. Someone touched her somewhat intimately” With time participants started getting more aggressive, their gestures developed into more exploratory forms of touch. People were writing on her body, cut off her clothes with razors, put thrones of the roses into her stomach and even one person put a gun in her head. The artist has stated, “The experience I drew from this work was that in your own performances you can go very far, but if you leave decisions to the public, you can be killed”. Once you allow public to have freedom and be violent, violence escalates.

This performance supports Freudian idea that humans are ambivalent beings. Sigmund Freud created the term to describe simultaneous presents of pain and pleasure, love and hatred, fear and safety towards the same objects. Freud explores the origins of the ambivalent structure in Totem and Taboo.



The drawing I made demonstrating the use of props in Rhythm 0 (from pleasure to pain)

Alexandra Shatalova