Viennese Actionism 1960-1971: The Shattered Mirror

Edited by Herbert Klocker

“Through my art production (form of a live devotion) I take the apparently negative, the unsavory, the perverse, the obscene, the lust and the victim hysteria resulting from them upon myself to save YOU the polluted, shameless descent into the extreme… Comedy will become a means of finding access to the deepest and holiest symbols through blasphemy and desecration. The blasphemous provocation is devotion. It is a matter of gaining an anthropologically determined view of existence, through which grail and phallus can be considered two qualified extremes. A philosophy of intoxication, of ecstasies, enchantments shows as a result that the innermost of the living and intensely vital is the frenzied excitation, the orgy, which represents a constellation of existence where pleasure, pain, death and procreation are approached and permeated.”—Excerpted from the “Manifesto of the Blood Organ,” Hermann Nitsch, 1962
Vienna in the ‘60s spawned a group of four artists—Hermann Nitsch, Otto Mühl, Günter Brus and Rudolph Schwartzkogler—who sought to literally reverse the psychoanalytic concept of sublimation into a torrent of blood, aggression, sexuality, shit, pain and self-mutilation which would puncture the tidy categories of Art and Life, and enact Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty on a smug, postwar Austrian public. Their unbridled artistic “actions” were the means to their end of unleashing the Catholic bourgeois Viennese psyche in a healing “abreaction,” wreaking the revenge of Freud on his picture-postcard hometown. This sublimely designed collection (the in-print half of a two-volume set) documents with photos, drawings, chronologies and essays show how the four very different artists played out the rigorously psychoanalytical yet visceral ideas of their Aktion school—the meditative Schwartzkogler in his medical-mutilation photo tableaux, the masochistic Brus in his cathartic “body analyses,” the communal Mühl in his messy, bawdy happenings, and the ritualistic Nitsch with his dionysian, sacrificial “blood orgies.” SS

Publisher: Ritter Verlag
Paperback: 392 pages