Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present

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Marina Abramović. _Rhythm 0._ Performed in 1974 for 6 hours at Studio Morra, Naples  
 Still from 35mm slide projection (black and white and color, silent) with 72 objects. Duration variable © 2010 Marina Abramović. Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Marina Abramović. Rhythm 0. 1974

(Yugoslav, born 1946) 35mm slide projection (black and white and color, silent), assorted objects.
Duration variable
Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery

GLENN LOWRY: By the 1970s, performance art had achieved a level of notoriety and even acceptance. However, because many artists used their bodies aggressively in their performances, it was often perceived as masochistic and sensationalist.

In response to this criticism, Abramović performed Rhythm 0, in which she stood impassively and put herself completely in the hands of her audience.

MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: I was standing there in the middle of the space,[with] this table with objects I put the objects on the table very carefully chosen, because the objects was for pleasure, and there was also the object for pain and objects that can bring you to death.

GLENN LOWRY: Some of the objects included were a rose, a feather, grapes, honey, a whip, a scalpel, a gun and a bullet.

MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: 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. They would cut my clothes. They will cut me with a knife, close to my neck, and drink my blood, and then put the plaster over the wound. They will, carry me around, half-naked, put me on the table, and stuck the knife between my legs into the wood.

And, even somebody put the bullet in the pistol, and put in my hand and see if I were pressing it, her hand against my hand, if I would resist.

But, I remember after six hours when the gallerist come and say this piece, it's finished that I start being by myself and start walking through the audience naked and with blood, and tears in my eyes, everybody run away, literally run out of the door.

I remember coming to the hotel that evening, looking at myself in the mirror and seeing really big piece of white hair.