EATING up the Objectified WOMAN. Some peformance art.

RHYTHM 0.                                                                                                                                          MARIA ABRAMOVIC.                                                                                         1974.

In a controversial, masochistic performance, Abramovic offered up a stage for the public audience to reveal humanities all consuming tendencies.

Maria Abramovic, Rhythm 0.



72 objects on the table.

Use these as you wish on the subject.

Objects present included those of pleasure such a flowers and feathers and those of destruction names a razor, a gun and knife.

DURATION: 8 hours ( 8pm-2am).

For this time the artist was an object to be used by the public.

The performance.

Abramovic fearlessly stood erect, complete in her human (in)vulnerability, projecting her gaze towards the audience. Her biographer notes:

“she maintained a perfect thousand-yard stare through and beyond anyone in front of her” (Westcott, 2010)

Initially no-one touched her. After a period of time people began to take initiative and approach the table of instruments.

As time progresses, the policing gaze of societies assigned morality begins to disintegrate. Simultaneously the treatment of Abramovic gets progressively more violent. These actions show normative boundaries defining the treatment a human agent being transgressed.

By the end of the performance the public had unclothed, cut, man handled and mildly  sexually assaulted  the artist. One participant even licked up blood after cutting at her throat. Most shockingly, a visitor had placed the gun in Abramovic’s hand, pointing it towards her body.

The second half of the performance depicted the artist regaining her agency. Still unclothed, she walked around the room among the visitors. She found that the people who had done harm to her couldn’t look her in the eyes. A majority of the offending spectators left the performance at this point.

Freudian Ambivalence

Abramovics performance is highly illustrative of Freud’s analysis of the Totem and Taboo, illustrated most famously in ‘Civilisation and its discontents’ (Sandaoui  2016). The actions of the visitors exemplify the momentary submergence of the socially constructed superego, whilst the normatively suppressed id, encapsulating the cannibalistic “wetiko” spirit engulfs its host and assumes corporeal control (Ladha, Kirk 2016).

A taboo contains a prohibition. This cannot be separated from the desire it prohibits (Sandaoui  2016).

“There is no need to prohibit something that no one desires to do and a thing that is forbidden with the greatest emphasis must be a thing that is desired” (Freud 1930)

Freud concludes that the desire to murder is present in the unconscious.

Accordingly, notions of ambivalence persist, since keeping our destructive instincts at bay perseveres the fabrics of our society. For Freud, prohibitions are the price humanity pays for its civilisation (ibid).


Abramovics created a liminal space where normative societal rules were upturned. She embodied a corporeal shell for people to manipulate. Her refusal to respond, and to passively facilitate every action reproduced her objectified status.

Within a small space of time, the performance reveals humanity  inner most instincts. In Freudian terms, the minor changes in conditions, that inverted societal order, lead to the revelation of the suppressed all-consuming animalistic being. Indeed, simplicity of the experiment highlights the fragility of civilisations veneer (Sandaoui 2016).

Abramovic concludes that given the right context, people will consume you. However the ambivalent human disposition means that perpetrators do not want to face the consequences of their actions. Whereby totemic-fetished objects simultaneously sir up feeling of disgust and admiration (ibid).

“I felt raped, they cut off the clothes, they struck me with thorns of a rose in the stomach, aimed the gun to my head, another came apart.”

Maria Abramovic on rhythm 0

Reading the performance from a Freudian perspective raises questions about the human psyche, as well as the nature of humanities morality and civilisation(Sandaoui 2016) Does the latter soften the edges of our most  rudimentary cannibalistic tendencies? or does it just put a lid on our deepest human instincts, assigning us all to a volatile neurosis encapsulated by guilt, anxiety and destruction.


  1. Ladha, Alnoor. Kirk, Martin. 2016. Seeing Wetiko: on Capitalism, Mind Viruses, and Antidotes for a World in Transition.
  2. Marnia Abramonvic on performing “Rhythm 0″ 1974. Obtained from”: 
  3. Marina Abramovic on Rhythm 0 (1974):// fromReality 0 — What We Can Learn From This Terrifying Experiment:
  4. Freud, Sigmund. 1930. Society and its discontents. 80-81.
  5. Sandaoui, Ana. 2016. 0, Marina Abramović, and Freudian Ambivalence.
  6. Spector, Nancy. Collection Online. Maria Abramonvic.
  7. Wescott, James. 2010. When Marina Abramovic Dies: A Biography. MIT press.

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