Brus, Muehl, Nitsch, Schwarzkogler: four artists who, during the Sixties, became notorious for pushing the definition of art to an extreme which has yet to be surpassed.
Variously fined, gaoled, and forced into exile, they were ignored by the art establishment of the day, only to be hailed in recent years as one of the most outstanding and unique contributions to post-war art in Europe. Exaggeration and myth still obscure their activities, however, and their actual motives for an art centred on the examination of taboos, the “hidden” secrets of the body, the aesthetics of destruction and the possibilities of regeneration have remained elusive. Subsequent generations of artists have claimed them as their forefathers or unscrupulously borrowed their ideas (but without approaching the intensity of their actions), and while international exhibitions have reclaimed their work for the visual arts, their writings have remained largely unpublished since they first appeared in small mimeographed editions, or are long since out of print.
This anthology of photo-documentation and writings - which includes manifestos, theoretical texts, action scores, even police and psychiatric reports - has been assembled in collaboration with the three surviving artists. It provides the first comprehensive survey of their work, and for the first time illuminates their differing intentions. These texts employ humour and vitriol to elaborate a position in total opposition to contemporary social, political and aesthetic mores. A lucid narrative emerges of a determined exploration of these conditioning factors, by means of an art that used life itself as material.
The Vienna Actionists were indeed unique - at the very outset of post-war performance art they trod a path very different from the “Happenings” in the USA or the belated neo-Dada pranks of many of their contemporaries. They not only established a new territory for art but they explored it so thoroughly as to make most subsequent “body art” simply irrelevant.
The anthology contains: Manifestos, action scores, press reports, letters, police and court reports and extensive photographic documentation covering the whole period of the Actionists’ most intensive period (1962-1974).
Principal events covered include:The Blood Organ, The Festival of Psycho-Physical Naturalism, Material Action and Direct Art, the Destruction in Art Symposium, the Orgies Mysteries Theatre, the Vietnam Party, Body Analysis, Zock and The Zock Festival, the Art and Revolution scandal.