Marina Abramović, “Rhythm 0”

A table, seventy-two objects, and a woman.

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Rhythm 0 is the art performance of Marina Abramović currently hosted at the Tate Modern. Be prepared of witnessing something extraordinary.

Ongoing performance reproduction

Do you remember that episode of Sex and the City, when Carrie met the famed Russian artist Aleksandr Petrovsky at an art gallery opening?
The two met for the first time during the performance of a woman living on a maisonette in the gallery for 16 days without eating or drinking. Carrie, who loved more brand shoes than provocative forms of art, was sceptic and believed that the performance was not so serious. Petrovsky, then, proposed her to go back to the gallery together by late night to verify if the woman was still there or not. At 3 am, they saw the performance artist still vigilant in the gallery room, without food or drinks, staring amused at the two unexpected visitors.

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This memorable episode for the lovers of the series has been inspired by Marina Abramović, who did the same performance, titled The House with the Ocean View, at Sean Kelly Gallery in 2002. The Serbian artist indeed, particularly popular and awarded in the early 2000s, is worldwide renowned for her impressive, sometimes disturbing, art performances.

Today in London, we can witness a reproduction of one her most acclaimed exhibitions: the Tate Modern is hosting Rhythm 0, a performance originally showed in Naples at Studio Morra in 1974.

The performance, at the core of Tate’s section “Art of Participation”, consists in a long-rectangular table, covered by a white cloth, where are exposed seventy-two different objects, including a gun, knifes, shoes, a mirror, a whip, flowers, a brush, a newspaper. Above this table slides are projected on the wall showing images of the original performance: the artist was standing next to the table for six hours and visitors were meant to use the objects on her as they wish. Then, the artist affirmed that sometimes it resulted to be very risky as people acted aggressively by using objects towards her.

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Abramović reverses the role of the artist and the observer. The artist is no more the one who produces art, but she is the art itself, she fully objectified herself by turning into the seventy-third prop. And we, as viewers, are not more passive audience, silently contemplating the performance, but we are invited to actively participate in creation of art.

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I visited the exhibition with my best friend and we have been particularly impressed by the variety of the exhibit props. We asked ourselves what the public could have done with knifes, feather or flowers on the artist…
The slides display different shots with the artist, at the center behind the table, surrounded by the visitors and props. Sometimes, people give her flowers while she is sitting on a chair, holding photos, and showing her nude breast. But in the most dramatic pictures, one throws a glass of water on her head or others from the audience fasten her body with chains putting a knife between her knees.
I believe that, entirely entrusting her body to the visitors and letting them play with pain and relief, Abramović wants to prove that art is a conjuncture between the two. She revealed how every art manifestation is a “memento mori”, an embodiment of life and death of the author, that performs both creation and destruction.

Marina Abramović created a provocative and diversified performance, sometimes strong, sometimes more emotional and romantic, that makes you reflect on how people manage their chance of freely contributing in the production of meanings.

Should I go?

If you have the chance to visit the Tate Modern, absolutely take some time to explore this great example of the participatory art.

Rating: 8/9 (considering the enjoyment, the room’s design, the social context provided by surrounding pieces of different artists, the price)
Cost: free

Rebecca Horn, “Body Sculptures”

The collection Body Sculptures by Rebecca Horn made me think about a revolutionary Italian writer. I rediscovered the relativism of Luigi Pirandello by visiting Horn’s exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Ongoing performance reproduction

Inevitably we construct ourselves. Let me explain. I enter this house and immediately I become what I have to become, what I can become: I construct myself. That is, I present myself to you in a form suitable to the relationship I wish to achieve with you. And, of course, you do the same with me.

L. Pirandello, The Pleasure of Honesty, 1925

The relativistic concept proposed by the 1900s author, Luigi Pirandello, argues that we have a multi-faced personality shaped through different individual and cultural factors: our beliefs, the social structures we live in, the people or texts affecting us, etc. The Italian novelist speaks about a “mask”, a constructed modern identity, that we are forced to wear in the presence of other people. The mask helps us to interact with people, accomplishing their expectations and preventing us to be judged, and, at the same time, it armed individuals against what makes them feel vulnerable and unconfident. In this way, we are both protectors of ourselves and aggressors against the surrounding environment.

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The German artist, Rebecca Horn, through the collection “body sculpture”, reminded me the dualist aspect of Pirandello’s mask. She plays with objects and different materials to both extend and protect her body. After having been diagnosed with a severe illness, she had to stay in bed for several months completely isolated, so started to draw wearable sculptures exploring extensions and limitations of human body. Once healed, the artist produced these objects, as constraints or protheses, made by wood, feather, fabric and plastic, creating participatory art performances.

The exhibition at Tate Modern hosts Horn’s body sculpture highlighting the artist’s intention of transforming the relationship between the individual and the surrounding space.

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Arm Extensions (1968)

The body of the performer, entirely supported by two thick stumps wrapping her arms, enters a new spacial and physical dimension. She can’t move, seems paralyzed, but something is evolving on her body: during the performance, the more her arms got used to this particular harness the more she felt detached from her own body creating, instead, a sense of fusion between herself and the ground she was standing on. The artist has no more the same body, identity, now she is part of something new.

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Mechanical Body Fan (1973-4)

The artist here is able to swing the mechanical body fan as she wishes, deciding which part of her body showing to the viewer. This is what Pirandello describes as a common human attitude: according to the person we are relating to we act differently showing enhancing or hiding aspects of our personality.

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In the Triangle (1973-4)

The wearer of the sculture here is the height of a triangle, that represents the geometric extension of human body into the space. The triangle connects the individuals with the landscape but also isolates and protects them from other people/observers.

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Cockatoo Mask (1973)

My favorite piece is the Cockatoo mask. The artist wears a feather mask: the one who stands before gently touches the mask that opens like the wings of a bird and encloses the heads of the two, isolating them together. For me, this performance reveals the significance of granting one person to see what we hide behind the mask. According to Pirandello we are one, none and a hundred thousand, but sometimes there is that special individual in our lives that is allowed to see us in our true intimacy.

Should I go?

I really suggest you to go and enjoy this thoughtful exhibit performance.

Rating: 8/10 (considering consistency of artworks, design of exhibit rooms, knowledge outcome, enjoyment and price)
Cost: free