Marina Abramovic who is possibly best recognized today as the elderly white lady who stood forehead to forehead with Jay- Z for his “Picasso Baby” music video has been doing performance art for over four decades. One such performance piece that provoked this particular blog post is one called “Rhythm 0.” This performance art piece peeked my curiosity about the nature of humans and how truly depraved we can be when there is no accountability for our actions. In “Rhythm 0,” Abramovic stood still for 6 hours with 72 objects laid out on a table and told the audience that they could use these objects on her any way they saw fit. Since Abramovic’s body is apart of the art the audience was allowed to use her body any way they saw fit as well. Perhaps the most alarming object she had splayed on the table was a loaded pistol. One man placed the loaded firearm into Abramovic’s hand and then aimed the gun at her head. To add to the utter depravity the famed performance artist was sexually violated to varying degrees and had her clothes cut from her body with a razor that was included amongst the items on the table. To further the decent into madness one of the audience members actually cut Abramovic with the aforementioned razor. Up until I read about the “Rhythm 0” piece, performance art was always more cerebral to me than physical. Yes, the artist is using their bodies so there is a degree of physicality innately built into the art, but this piece by Abramovic is different in that the physical aspects of the piece highlighted a pathology that I feel wouldn’t have been revealed had it not been for the audience participation aspect of it.
The pathology revealed by Abramovic’s “Rhythm 0” is one of depravity and uninhibited violence! The before and after pictures of what Abramovic looked like pre and post “Rhythm 0” piece is astonishing. Abramovic went into the performance fully clothed, bruise, and wound free and ended the performance sexually violated, bloodied, and humiliated. I think its important to note that from what I can gather not all the participants decided to degrade Abramovic and an overwhelming majority of her abusers were male. Although there could have been woman who chose to degraded and abuse Abramovic I have not come across any evidence to that speaks to female attackers. I find interesting to call into question gender, violence, and immunity from consequence.
I postulate that if “Marina Abramovic” were let us say “Martin Abramovic” that is to say that if she were indeed a he the outcome of the performance piece “Rhythm 0” would look very different. For starters I believe the sexual assault aspect of the piece carried out by the audience would not have happened not even slightly. A male Abramovic would have remained fully clothed, I do believe he would have still be physically assaulted, but to a much lesser degree and with much hesitation and deliberation from audience members. I think what Abramovic revealed about the pathology of humans, men in particular, is the need to act out our fantasies of violence, domination, and sexual conquest of woman. Perhaps what is most telling is that all the participants who violated Abramovic couldn’t face her in shame of what they had done. This tells me that the shame from their actions only arose once the threat of consequence was present, in this case the form of now interacting with the person you abused and having to come to grips with your actions. Just imagine if man was given free reign to impose their will on others unchecked? Imagine how much more fucked-up our world would be?
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