1946, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, now Serbia, lives in New York, USA
Rhythm 0, 1974
performance, Studio Morra, Naples, 6 hours
72 objects, performance instructions, 25 photo slides and a slide projector
To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force that would act on her.
Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were scissors, a knife, a whip, and, most notoriously, a gun loaded with a single bullet. For six hours the artist sat immobile, allowing the audience members to entirely direct the action.
Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) several people began to act quite aggressively. As Abramović described it later:
“The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” ... “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.” (Daneri, 29; and 30).