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The consequence of unaccountability – rhythm 0 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

Trigger Warning – Mention of sexual assault and violence

What would you do if your actions had no consequences? In 1974, Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic set out to investigate this and embarked on her most gruelling performance yet, testing what normal people would do if they were invited to do whatever they pleased to someone with no repercussions. For 6 hours, Marina stood in the middle of a room in silence whilst the audience were allowed to do whatever they wished to her. In the room was a table with 72 items ranging from lipstick, perfume and cake to a scalpel, hammer, and a loaded gun. The only thing the audience were given was 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.

Whilst her performance started off pretty tame with people just lifting her arms or spinning her around, it quickly took a dark turn. After just three hours her clothes were completely cut off, she was carried around naked and sexually assaulted, at one point someone even took a knife to her neck and drank her blood. After four hours they began to cut her skin and put rose thorns in her. During her performance two groups in the audience began to form, one group committing these heinous acts, and the other defending Marina, wiping away her tears and attempting to intervene. 

Marina had stated before the performance that she was so committed she would be willing to give up control completely, even if that meant being seriously harmed or even murdered. Near the end of the 6 hours someone took the loaded gun and put it up to Marina’s head, placing her own fingers over the trigger, and it was at this point a fight broke out between the two groups in the audience.

When the 6 hours was up, Marina began to silently move around the room and look her audience in the eyes, nobody could actually face her and they all quickly left the room, absolved of any kind of responsibility or repercussions for what they had just done or witnessed.

Marina has since said that she still has scars from Rhythm 0, and it was difficult to get rid of that feeling of fear for a very long time after.

This experiment has long been used as a poignant example of the scary reality that if there was no punishment, people would commit so much more evil than we can imagine – people tortured and exploited an innocent woman for no reason other than the fact that they just could, and they could get away with it.

Maya Zarri

Nottingham '23

English graduate from the University of Nottingham, currently studying an MA in Fashion Communications Get in touch! - maya.zarri@gmail.com