Nitsch’s darkest and bloodiest work describes a series of actions to be played in the 1087 rooms of a subterranean city: a Dionysian drama of death and resurrection.
the fall of jerusalem was first published in a fine bibliophile’s edition of 75 in 1974, followed three years later by an edition of 1000, in reduced format, as issue no. 17 of GŁnter Brus’s magazine Die Drossel (the continuation of Die Schastrommel, the organ of the Austrian government in exile).
Nitsch has written several “plays to be read,” from an early fragment dating from between 1957 and 1962, which was still based on the conventional theatre of the word, to his recent monumental works Asolo and Cuma. During the late sixties and early seventies Nitsch not only wrote the fall of jerusalem, but also a more serene piece entitled Harmating, a festival which he decribed as a “comedy” and which formed the counterpart to the present work. Both plays are only indirectly connected to Nitsch’s actions and more especially to his planned 6-day play, a grand series of actions-cum-festival which can be seen as the culmination of his life work. The plays examine specific aspects of this envisaged work in depth, just as all of his actions to date represent greater or smaller practical studies of facets of the 6-day play which Nitsch had already outlined in his youth. In the fall of jerusalem Nitsch focuses on the seemingly daemonic and horrific: “i wanted to descend deep into the existence of the tragic,” he writes. “the aim was to present and reveal all of the world’s suffering, cruelty, agression and the sacrifice of god on the cross. as a dramatist it seemed essential to me to bring out all that is hideous and appalling, namely the tragic, to make it visible and bring it to awareness. the dramatist has the capability of letting his spectators, his participants glimpse the abysses of taboo-free space. ...the fall of jerusalem shows the passion to which the creative essence is exposed in order that there is BEING instead of nothing ... the highest state of existence, the mysticism of being."
The title of this work is a dedication to Artaud, and is taken from the latter’s “First Manifesto” in his The Theatre of Cruelty where he lists the fall of jerusalem between Bluebeard and “a tale by the Marquis de Sade” as part of his prospective programme. Nitsch has commented in an interview: “Since [Artaud] wished to realise [his theatre] but was unable to, and because at the time I was developing my concept it was the fashion of every radio play author to dedicate his work to Artaud, I did my bit by giving my fantastic drama, which will also never be performed, this title."
In the same interview, Nitsch also emphasised the importance of his encounter with Artaud’s writings: “When I was first able to read Artaud in a German translation in 1970, I was quite astonished that in contrast to myself, he had not used the tools of psychoanalysis.” the fall of jerusalem clearly marks Nitsch’s turning away from Freud, and his move, rather like Artaud, towards a theatre akin to the mysterium coniunctionis, based on “the elimination of all conflicts between spirit and material, idea and form, abstract and concretisation” (Artaud). Yet one of Nitsch’s central concepts was adapted from Freud and Breuer: that of abreation ... not only are the individual’s blockades released, but also the floodgates are open to the immeasurable. from bottomless abysses there streams a vitality that amounts to the metaphysical, procreative rage of creation. the gaze into the glorious, terrifying dionysian power allows the creative to manifest itself before us in all its rending cruelty and superabundance of love."
Hermann Nitsch, born in 1938 in Vienna, rose to notoriety in the 1960s as a result of his actions in his home town, and later in Germany, the USA and Italy. In 1971 he was able to purchase Castle Prinzendorff, the home of his Orgies Mysteries Theatre, where he has staged three days of his 6-day play. Apart from his actions, Nitsch has gained international acclaim as an artist (he has recently received a professorship for Fine Art in Vienna), and is a prolific writer. His writings include not only texts, but also theoretical and speculative philosophical works.