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Tue, May 28, 2024

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Marina Abramovic, a true icon and the “Grandmother” of performance art is a pioneering feminist artist renowned for her ground-breaking work exploring the intricate dynamics between the performer and audience. Born and raised in a conservative environment in Yugoslavia, a country she once whimsically declared non-existent, Abramovic defied societal norms and evolved into a symbol of modern resistance against fear. Currently the focal point of an enthralling exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. This showcase brilliantly consolidates the essence of her diverse performances, acting as a captivating journey through the evolution of her craft. 

My personal fascination with Abramovic’s work traces back to the seminal moment of her six-hour terrifying performance Rhythm 0 (1974). "Rhythm 0" stands as a testament to Abramovic’s fearless exploration of human behavior. In this ground-breaking piece, she stood motionless while the audience was granted the unsettling freedom to interact with her using a variety of 72 objects. The table before her displayed a spectrum of items, from benign offerings like roses to more ominous choices like a loaded gun and a bullet. The audience was invited to use the objects on her however they wished without any social consequences. After she will say: “I had a pistol with bullets in it, my dear. I was ready to die”. The purpose of the performance was to probe the boundaries of human decency and to question the collective nature of societal behavior. Abramovic sought to unravel the depths of human response in the face of unbridled freedom, stating, "What is the public about and what are they going to do in this kind of situation?".  The Rhythms, in their entirety, served as a commentary on the constriction of rules in authoritarian societies and the challenges faced by women in deeply misogynistic cultures. During the performance, the initially benign gestures escalated into a harrowing ordeal. Abramovic endured sexual assaults, physical harm, and even threats to her life. The progression from kindness to aggression showcased how people, even in a cultured setting, could abandon restraint when faced with unchecked freedom. A protective circle formed only after severe attacks, underlining the shocking vulnerability of an individual, especially a woman, in the face of unrestrained instincts. The stark reality revealed by Abramovic’s performance transcends the boundaries of time, offering poignant reflections on societal norms and gender dynamics. In a society slowly but surely advancing towards acknowledging and celebrating the strength of women, Abramovic’s work serves as a powerful reminder of the struggles faced by women in the past and the importance of embracing our voices and strength.

In conclusion, Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 not only delves into the extremities of human behavior but also provides a striking commentary on societal dynamics. It serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by women, particularly in 1974, and acts as a catalyst for reflection on the progress we've made in recognizing and asserting the rights and strength of women. Abramovic, nearing 80, maintains a remarkable presence, captivating audiences with her age-defying vitality and unwavering commitment to impactful social engagement. 

“The audience is like a dog. They can feel immediately that you are afraid, that you are insecure, that you’re not in the right state of mind – and they just leave…”

Marina Abramovic 

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