Unleashing The Beast Within: How An Art Experiment Revealed The Dark Side Of Human Psychology

Marina Abramovic’s “Rhythm 0” and the limits of empathy.

Peter Burns
Lessons from History
6 min readMay 23, 2023


Photo by Mulyadi on Unsplash

Naples, Italy. 1974.

Picture a Mediterranean evening. You enter a room.

In front of you stands a woman. A thought pops up — “how strange”. Looking to the side, you notice a table. On it, the woman had placed 72 different objects, including a rose, feather, grapes, scissors, a scalpel, but also a gun and a bullet.

You come closer and find a paper with instructions:

“There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.
I am the object.
During this period I take full responsibility.

Duration: 6 hours (8 pm — 2 am).”

Close your eyes and put yourself there. What would you have done?

It started innocently enough

Marina Abramovic is a performance artist. This is the type of art where the artist, their body, and their actions are the exhibit. What happened on that day in Italy was Marina’s most daring and shocking performance.

That day, she became an object.



Peter Burns
Lessons from History

A curious polymath who wants to know how everything works. Blog: Renaissance Man Journal (http://gainweightjournal.com/).