Art &Technology
- Wiener Aktionismus - Hermann Nitsch

During the early 1960ies a group of Austrian artists started to experiment with painting, sound, and theatrical performance which became known as "Wiener Aktionismus". Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus, Otto Schwarzkogler with a strong psychoanalytical and religious connotation, Otto Mühl with a radically anarchistic political background and Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Arnolf Rainer with a more painterly bohemian approach found their way to shock the conservative public of post-war Austria.

Many artists as the movie director Kurt Kren, Valie Export and Peter Weibel sympathised with Aktionismus at a certain point of their work.

Hermann Nitsch: MANIFEST das lamm. 1965

Hermann Nitsch:
"MANIFEST das lamm",
Poster for an exhibition in "Galerie Junge Generation", Wien, 23.06. - 05.07.1964

Click here to see another piece by Nitsch, which shocked the bourgeouis public in the early 60ies or here to see one of his later works in "blood on canvas" dating from a few years ago. This was after Nitsch became a darling of the establishment and was commissioned to work for the Vienna State Opera as a stage designer.

In his lamb manifesto, "MANIFEST das lamm", Hermann Nitsch proposes in 1964:

"The Development of Art tends towards using reality as a means of design." ("die entwicklung der kunst tendierte dahin, die wirklichkeit als gestaltungsmittel zu benützen")

In the late 1950ies Nitsch started to turn the offering of a lamb into an artistic event, and created the "orgie mystery theatre" where he combined musical performance, decadent food preparation and extensive drinking with mythological aspects of the cult of Dyonisos and the crucification of Christ.


Günter Brus: Selbstbemalung. 1965

Fig.: Günter Brus: Selbstbemalung. 1965

Günter Brus was born on September 27th 1938 in Arding and went to the school of arts and crafts in the Austrian city of Graz. In 1956 Brus went to Vienna and met Otto Mühl, another member of Wiener Aktionismus. Mühl was deeply impressed by Brus's paintings. Brus fell into a serious psychological crisis after having attended the military services. In 1962 he started focusing on his own body and introducing his body as a starting point for painting. He started performing on stage then.

His actions generally used black and white body-painting and the materials he liked to use were razor blades, nails, scissors and saws. He developed a technique of black lines to be symbolic for separation: "a hint of the vulnerability of the body and an analytical symbol" ("eine Andeutung der Verletzung des Körpers und analytisches Symbol").

A series of actions called "Mutilation" ("Selbstverstümmelung") showed the artist cutting his own body up and doing other types of harm to it.