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Rhythm 0

In the 1974 art project, Rhythm 0, 23 year old Marina Abramovic conducted an experiment at an art gallery in Serbia. Abramovic told critics she was "ready to die" when planning Rhythm 0. In this experiment, Marina laid 72 items on a table that ranged from a feather to a loaded gun. She then stood in front of the table with a sign that told the passersby that they could do anything they wanted to her with the given items for the following 6 hours.

The purpose of Rhythm 0 is to see how far humans would go, knowing their actions have no consequences. As the experiment progressed, audience members realized that their actions had no consequences. This is when they began to experiment with violence: the playfulness during the first hour contrasted the violent crimes committed in the 4th to 6th hours. Rhythm 0 allows viewers to wonder if violence and malice are part of human nature, and if laws and rules are the only things stopping people from behaving violently. The belief that laws are needed to control people's actions, as opposed to an internal moral compass, was inspired by studies that prove that countries with weaker governments and less stable laws have much higher violent crime rates than countries with stronger laws. Within the first hour, people started by combing her hair, tickling her with a feather, and feeding her grapes, bread and wine. They also put clothes and makeup on her, hats and scarves. The violence started when one of the youngest audience members began flashing a flashlight in her eyes. Abramovic stated that she suspects he was doing it as a joke, to see if she would flinch. The audience then began drawing on her with a pen. This then progressed from drawing on her to carving into her skin with the same pens. The writing eventually drew blood, but Abramovic showed no response; this is when Abramovic suspected the audience realised there would be no consequences to their actions. People progressed to other items such as lighters and needles. Members of the audience even extracted her blood and began to drink it. By the fourth hour, they had removed most of her clothing. Male audience members began to sexually assault the subject—they groped and raped her. By the last hour, one of the men in the audience even placed a gun to her forehead while another man had carved his initials into her stomach.

After the 6-hour experiment was over, Marina began to move. She removed the sign from her chest along with whatever other objects were impaling her. As she came to life, audience members, who were assaulting and wounding her, ran to avoid confrontation. This social experiment thus became irrevocable evidence not only that rules control people's actions, rather than their moral compass, but that some seem to lack a moral compass.


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