Artist thought she was going 'to die' after letting spectators do whatever they wanted for 6 hours

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By stefan armitage

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An artist says she was "ready to die" after her performance art piece quickly turned into a horrifying display of the worst side of human behavior.

Over the years, many artists have attempted to push the boundaries with their own unique ideas of art - but perhaps one of the most captivating is Marina Abramović.

Some may remember Abramović going viral on social media several years ago for her heartwarming reunion with her former lover and collaborator Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) as part of her 'The Artist is Present' piece.

However, not all of Abramović's pieces ended with tears of happiness.

GettyImages-2092447001.jpgMarina Abramovic was behind one of the most startling performance art pieces of all time. Credit: Dave Benett / Getty

Back in 1974, the Serbian artist performer her piece, Rhythm 0.

What began as an innocuous experiment in audience participation quickly spiraled into a harrowing ordeal that tested the boundaries of artistic expression, human decency, and crowd mentality.

Abramović's premise was deceptively simple yet profoundly provocative: she placed 72 objects on a table and invited the audience to use them on her in any way they desired over a period of six hours.

Per Far Out Magazine, the objects ranged from benign items like flowers and apples to potentially deadly implements such as knives and a loaded gun.

Her directive was clear: "I am an object. You can do whatever you want with me and I will take full responsibility for the 6 hours," she said, per the Marina Abramović Institute.

Initially, the audience hesitated, unsure of how to engage with the artist and the unusual freedom granted to them. Yet, as time passed, inhibitions dissolved and the atmosphere grew increasingly charged.

The turning point came when someone lifted Abramović's arm, emboldening others to escalate their interactions. By the three-hour mark, the performance had descended into chaos.

Clothes were torn from her body and she was stripped, a knife was dangerously placed between her legs, and she was subjected to assaults.


Throughout the ordeal, Abramović remained stoic, fulfilling her role as both subject and observer of human behavior.

Some audience members took on roles of protectors, wiping her tears and attempting to intervene.

Others, driven by the power granted to them, committed acts of cruelty and violence. One person even reportedly cut her neck.


The performance became a microcosm of societal dynamics, with factions forming among the audience — some appalled by the unfolding brutality, others reveling in their newfound authority over a passive individual. And some people simply watched on, silent.

One account of the performance details how Abramović was made to hold the loaded gun to her head and grasp the trigger with her fingers.

When the time limit came to an end, the artist started to move - no longer a puppet.

Speaking to her own Marina Abramović Institute, she recalls the moment: "I start moving. I start being myself [...] and, at that moment, everybody ran away. People could not actually confront with me as a person."

Reflecting on the performance later, Abramović expressed the profound impact it had on her: "The experience I drew from this piece was that in your own performances you can go very far, but if you leave decisions to the public, you can be killed."

"I was ready to die," she once said, per Far Out.


She also revealed that she created the piece to combat the growing criticism of performance art at the time. While many felt like artists were becoming increasingly vulgar, Abramović wanted to show how the public would behave if the artist simply did nothing.

Rhythm 0 stands as a stark reminder of the power dynamics at play in human interactions, echoing the disturbing findings of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

It was a display of what some people would do with anonymity and free from repercussions.

Featured image credit: Dave Benett / Getty

Artist thought she was going 'to die' after letting spectators do whatever they wanted for 6 hours

vt-author-image

By stefan armitage

Article saved!Article saved!

An artist says she was "ready to die" after her performance art piece quickly turned into a horrifying display of the worst side of human behavior.

Over the years, many artists have attempted to push the boundaries with their own unique ideas of art - but perhaps one of the most captivating is Marina Abramović.

Some may remember Abramović going viral on social media several years ago for her heartwarming reunion with her former lover and collaborator Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) as part of her 'The Artist is Present' piece.

However, not all of Abramović's pieces ended with tears of happiness.

GettyImages-2092447001.jpgMarina Abramovic was behind one of the most startling performance art pieces of all time. Credit: Dave Benett / Getty

Back in 1974, the Serbian artist performer her piece, Rhythm 0.

What began as an innocuous experiment in audience participation quickly spiraled into a harrowing ordeal that tested the boundaries of artistic expression, human decency, and crowd mentality.

Abramović's premise was deceptively simple yet profoundly provocative: she placed 72 objects on a table and invited the audience to use them on her in any way they desired over a period of six hours.

Per Far Out Magazine, the objects ranged from benign items like flowers and apples to potentially deadly implements such as knives and a loaded gun.

Her directive was clear: "I am an object. You can do whatever you want with me and I will take full responsibility for the 6 hours," she said, per the Marina Abramović Institute.

Initially, the audience hesitated, unsure of how to engage with the artist and the unusual freedom granted to them. Yet, as time passed, inhibitions dissolved and the atmosphere grew increasingly charged.

The turning point came when someone lifted Abramović's arm, emboldening others to escalate their interactions. By the three-hour mark, the performance had descended into chaos.

Clothes were torn from her body and she was stripped, a knife was dangerously placed between her legs, and she was subjected to assaults.


Throughout the ordeal, Abramović remained stoic, fulfilling her role as both subject and observer of human behavior.

Some audience members took on roles of protectors, wiping her tears and attempting to intervene.

Others, driven by the power granted to them, committed acts of cruelty and violence. One person even reportedly cut her neck.


The performance became a microcosm of societal dynamics, with factions forming among the audience — some appalled by the unfolding brutality, others reveling in their newfound authority over a passive individual. And some people simply watched on, silent.

One account of the performance details how Abramović was made to hold the loaded gun to her head and grasp the trigger with her fingers.

When the time limit came to an end, the artist started to move - no longer a puppet.

Speaking to her own Marina Abramović Institute, she recalls the moment: "I start moving. I start being myself [...] and, at that moment, everybody ran away. People could not actually confront with me as a person."

Reflecting on the performance later, Abramović expressed the profound impact it had on her: "The experience I drew from this piece was that in your own performances you can go very far, but if you leave decisions to the public, you can be killed."

"I was ready to die," she once said, per Far Out.


She also revealed that she created the piece to combat the growing criticism of performance art at the time. While many felt like artists were becoming increasingly vulgar, Abramović wanted to show how the public would behave if the artist simply did nothing.

Rhythm 0 stands as a stark reminder of the power dynamics at play in human interactions, echoing the disturbing findings of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

It was a display of what some people would do with anonymity and free from repercussions.

Featured image credit: Dave Benett / Getty