VB Previz #49 – Rhythm 0

All of Marina Abramovic’s work powerfully investigates presence, corporeality, limits. It is hard and perhaps pointless to pick a “most famous” work, but if one must, a contender for that title is Rhythm 0. Abramovic speaks of this 1974 piece to this day…

And, indeed, even though she was born a dozen years after Abramovic performed Rhythm 0, Lady Gaga speaks of it also:

What is interesting about this “famous work” is that it shares something with the way we name places.

It’s true we occasionally name places for things that are common there like “Thousand Oaks,” but at least as often we name places not for their common elements but for their unique or unusual elements, “Lone Pine.”

Rhythm 0 is the Lone Pine of Abramovic’s oeuvre. Yes this work is demanding of her as all her works are, but unlike most of her works the focus of this work’s investigation is more of her audience than of herself. As much as “phenomenology art” or “corporeality art” or “psychology art,” Rhythm 0 is “sociology art.” Indeed, it was performed just 10 years after that social psychology watershed tragedy, the murder of Kitty Genovese

Today Kitty Genovese would have been 76, Lady Gaga is 25, and today Rhythm 0 exists 37 years in the past. It is famous. It is infamous.

I propose to do a virtual re-performance of Rhythm 0.

The 1974 work was planned to last 6 hours. I have read accounts that it lasted the full 6 hours. I have read accounts that it was stopped early by the audience because of the intensity it had reached. Either way, I believe that this time scale while compelling in the physical world has a diffusing quality within the dynamics of the virtual world, therefore I believe a 3 hour performance may be about right. The 72 objects may change some given the procedural differences of the virtual world, but just as 37 years ago, a sign will read:

There are 72 objeces on the table that one can use on me as desired.

I am the object.

During this period I take full responsibility.


As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

8 thoughts on “VB Previz #49 – Rhythm 0

  1. For you haters out there who’ve called this talented lady every obnoxious name under the sun: Have you ever heard the lyrics and her inspirations on this CD? She’s tapped every culture, several languages, and a plethora of music styles here. As well as she’s an amazing songwriter and her vocals are extremely lush. On this CD she goes full-scale; she even supplies us with a country-infused ballad. For those who just like to spew hate and don’t even give a female musician the opportunity, I say spend more time honing your personal talents — once you reach super-stardom in your field, then you can definitely throw stones.

  2. Rythm 0 just blew my mind. I can barely put words on it… I mean, Abramovic basically put her life on stake in the name of art.
    Would she have been a heroine if someone had managed to shoot her? which was (as far as I could read) close to happening, or would she have been a victim?
    Her act raises a million questions about morality but also our legal system. If someone had killed her, would it even have been murder? She took responsibility, so… was it euthanasia? Or a form of suicide? Where’s the element of consent? I assume she didn’t -want- to die or have razor wounds, but at the same time, she objectifies herself and “allows” it. Is it at all possible to create a room of no consequence, like she did…or did she? Maybe that’s one of the questions her art raises. It’s bravery of another world.

    I’m wondering how this would work in a virtual world. I definitely believe an avatar can have their limits trespassed, and can be the subject of assault, but the axis of pain and pleasure has to skip the physical and go directly on to the emotional, I assume….
    Looking forward to see your adaptation and sorry for the rant.

  3. hahaha – we like rants!

    Like many things, there is a “hotness” in the physical world and more of a “coolness” to virtual corporeality. As you say, the physical risks are essentially removed and the psychological may or may have weight and power. We know that Facebook bullying can lead to suicide, so the “virtual” can be painfully “real,” but certainly with a work like this, different.

    Still, an investigation worth considering.

    If you think about climbing Mt. Everest in a virtual world… well… in the instantiation of today it likely means putting your finger on an arrow key… but what if it were a more immersive virtual world? Where is the experience of climbing Everest? The fact that it’s physically challenging? Or that you are risking death? What if you climbed a virtual Everest that pushed you to your physical limits and had real chances for “failure” but not for death?

  4. The fact that Abramovic had condoms amongst the 72 items made me think about the LambdaMOO case of cyber rape.


    From the Wiki:
    “The “cyberrape” itself was performed by a player named Mr. Bungle. The user behind this avatar ran a “voodoo doll” subprogram that allowed him to make actions that were falsely attributed to other characters in the virtual community. These actions, which included describing sexual acts that characters performed on each other, went far beyond the community norms to that point and continued for several hours. They were interpreted as sexual violation of the avatars who were made to act sexually, and incited outrage among the LambdaMOO users, raising questions about the boundaries between real-life and virtual reality, and how LambdaMOO should be governed.”

    A virtual Rythm 0 can definitely be as real, if you know what I mean.

  5. Maybe a virtual Rythm 0 can in addition ask questions about the ethics of avatars, where’s the limit to how we treat them? What kind of dignity are we bestowing on them and how far are other avatars willing to go to trespass on the objectified avatar?
    Is an avatar already objectified based on how they exist?

  6. When I first read your post about re-performing this work, I really didn’t know anything about Abramovic even though I was 20 years old in 1974 and might have been vaguely aware of her. The explosion of thoughts, feelings and questions that has erupted inside my head now that I’ve read about it and her are very unsettling.

    Damn artists! Forcing me to revisit ideas about some painful realities of life that I had neatly organized, catalogued and filed away so they wouldn’t trouble me is just not fair 🙂

    Intellectually I think I can grasp what she wanted to achieve with this work. It brings to mind Stanley Milgram’s psychology experiments which found that the majority of people, when placed in certain kinds of situations, will follow orders, even if those orders entail harming another person. Here a “passive”, “objectified” woman in effect has given her audience the orders to use these torture implements on her as they desire. And they did so, apparently with a lot of zeal. That for me is the amazing genius of this performance.

    I think it’s a shame that there was no video shot of this performance although I wonder if I could watch it if there was. The still photos are compelling enough I suppose.

    On an emotional level is where my thoughts get all racing around and hard to manage. I don’t know, I want to write a post about some of these things but I need to sort them out somehow. I try but fail to put myself inside the heads of Abramovic, but most especially the audience. Can you imagine being the one who sliced her with a razor or raised the loaded gun to her head? And what about post-performance, would you have a nice glass of chardonnay and some gouda with her, smiling, nodding and making cordial smalltalk? Abramovic said that she walked towards them afterwards and they pretty much all ran away. Doesn’t surprise me really.

    I do think re-performing Rhythm 0 (interesting that she started numbering her works at 0 even before personal computers existed) in a virtual world may be as compelling or more so than the real life one. With the extra levels of separation between artist and audience and the lack of physical consequences, there is the potential that it’s impact could be huge. I wonder if she herself would be interested to know about a virtual rendition? How cool would that be?

    Anyway, enough rambling, I need to go kill some Hellboars or something lol!

  7. On reperforming Abramovic, Eva & Franco Mattes, the Italian prankster/genius artists have reperformed a number of her works in Second Life. Ironically… sorry… Ironyca Lee, their entire career has involved stealing everything… yet they actually got permission to reperform Abramovic. Yes, it might be worth tracking her down to discuss the project.

    On the numbering — hahaha — no, actually Rhythm 0 was the LAST in the series! The first was Rhythm 10, then Rhythm 5, Rhythm 2, Rhythm 4, and finally Rhythm 0.

    Sitting in our living rooms or offices with our nice chai latte’s and thinking about the audience, sure it’s shocking. But if you think about all the Milgram work you cited, or the Kitty Genovese tragedy I mentioned in the post, circumstances can take the human organism to extraordinary places. As for a glass of wine after, if you want to venture outside the psychology departments of Yale and Stanford, apparently, after a day of implementing The Final Solution, Nazi death camp commanders would sometimes organize Schumann recitals!

    On a different note, if you look at the searches we humans do, on the web, blogs, virtual worlds, they are massively dominated by sex. I don’t mean to be too pessimistic or nihilistic, but we really are a simple people.

  8. By the way hey Ironyca! So glad to read your posts and hope you are well.

    Well yes, it is exactly the brutal “simplicity” of the human organism that tends to get to me when I am confronted with that reality. My view is that while circumstances may be a sufficient cause of one human harming another, they are not a necessary predicate to those actions. Sometimes in a futile attempt to rationalize why it should be so, I surmise that since we are apparently the only organism certain of our mortality, that awareness drives most of us insane.

    In the second to last photo above (rhythm0b2.jpg), I’m struck by the intense looks of concentration on the men as they sort through and choose which “objects” they will use. They have the demeanor of somebody choosing dinner items from a smorgasbord. My guess is that was about the highest level of cognition active in their cerebra too.

    Well anyway, I will be there for the virtual performance. Maybe I’ll tickle you with a feather lol 😛 But watch that damned Monerda. She has a nasty streak!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.