The artist who revealed the true nature of humans

When I read the background material for this article, I wasn’t even sure where to begin with. Neither am I sure at this point whether I should be. While this thing happened in 1974, it is a reflection of what human beings truly are and that is what makes it terrifying.

Photo from Rhythm 0

The very rules and regulations, social customs and norms that are designed and that we revolt against may also be the fine line that separates our behaviour, for if that fine line disappears we may all descend into total chaos.

This could have been possible only because of the artist Marina Abramović and her work known as Rhythm 0 which took place in Naples. The work was pretty simple. She left the following 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)

She stood motionlessly for 6 hours, some of the 72 items were rose, feather, perfume, honey, bread, grapes, wine, scissors, a scalpel, nails, a metal bar, and a gun loaded with one bullet. Her objective was to know how far a people can go. At the start it was gentle and playful, a kiss here, playing with the feather there. An art critic who was present to witness this had this to write

It began tamely. Someone turned her around. Someone thrust her arms into the air. Someone touched her somewhat intimately. The Neapolitan night began to heat up. In the third hour all her clothes were cut from her with razor blades. In the fourth hour the same blades began to explore her skin. Her throat was slashed so someone could suck her blood. Various minor sexual assaults were carried out on her body. She was so committed to the piece that she would not have resisted rape or murder. Faced with her abdication of will, with its implied collapse of human psychology, a protective group began to define itself in the audience. When a loaded gun was thrust to Marina’s head and her own finger was being worked around the trigger, a fight broke out between the audience factions

Other reports also suggested that thorns were put in her body and she could have been killed. The most fascinating part was however at the end. When the 6 hours were up and Marina began to move, the audience ran not having the guts to face her in person.

What it reveals are two things

  1. If you don’t stand up for yourself, people in general knowingly or unknowingly can inflict all sorts of physical and mental harm upon you.
  2. If the moral and legal walls are broken, we will easily descend into chaos where only the strongest will survive.