About us
Viennese Actionism Collage

Viennese Actionism

Started: Early 1960s

Ended: 1971

Viennese Actionism Timeline

Quotes

"The aesthetics of the dung heap are the moral means against conformism, materialism and stupidity."
Otto Muehl
"In my actions, I started off from an artistic premise, but I see everything less and less in terms of art. What I do would better be described as a kind of opposite pole of society."
Otto Muehl
" I think my actions, like those of my associates, were possible in this form only in Vienna. Our heritage was the Vienna Secession and Austrian Expressionism, and that, along with the violent disapproval of our work, explains not only its frequently overwrought and aggressive character, but also its radical psychological insights."
Gunter Brus
"Vienna seemed quite ignorant when it came to art."
Hermann Nitsch
"My work agitated the people, and I saw myself in the same league as other great misunderstood artists."
Hermann Nitsch
"It is our flesh and blood I work with."
Hermann Nitsch
"I never intended to provoke. I always looked for intensity. The intensity in historical art always fascinated me. The tragic plays of antiquity, the Passion of Christ... intense art always had my love. If one of my actions provoked the people at one point, well, so be it. But provocations were never cooked up at the drawing board."
Hermann Nitsch
"My body is the intention. My body is the event. My body is the result."
Gunter Brus
"'Ritual' might be an acceptable term, if shorn of its overtly religious connotations.For me,breaking taboos became nothing less than a stylistic means. I allowed my body, my self, to be pushed into such extreme situations that certain norms of social behaviour could only appear utterly absurd to me."
Gunter Brus
"Art is gushing hot bile on the fields and harvesting the looks of nasty dwarfs."
Gunter Brus

KEY ARTISTS

Gunter BrusGunter Brus
Quick View
Further External Info
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Otto MuehlOtto Muehl
Quick View
Further External Info
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
VALIE EXPORTVALIE EXPORT
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rudolf SchwarzkoglerRudolf Schwarzkogler
Quick View
Further External Info
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Hermann NitschHermann Nitsch
Quick View
Further External Info
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Adolf FrohnerAdolf Frohner
Quick View
Further External Info
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"I don't attempt to create a beautiful, aesthetic image of people... I accept reality, which is still beautiful and true even when it is ugly."

Adolf Frohner Signature

Synopsis

The term Viennese Actionism refers to a violent, radical, and explicit form of performance art that developed in the Austrian capital during the 1960s. Mainly consisting of four members, the group collaboratively staged, filmed, and photographed graphic performances - or aktions as they called them. They used their work to make taboo-breaking, often illegal, and sometimes repellent statements that expressed violent dissatisfaction with what they saw as the uptight, bourgeois government and society of post-World War II Austria. The Actionists thought Austrians were suppressing memories of the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Nazis in their country, and were trying to force people to face these traumas head-on through their art.

Key Ideas

Actionists were frustrated by what they saw as the limits and conventionality of abstract painting. Instead of paint they used organic materials such as blood, urine, milk, and entrails; instead of canvas they used naked bodies as 'sites' or 'surfaces' in their carefully controlled performances.
Memories of life under the Nazis had a huge psychological impact on members of the group. They thought Austrians - especially the Viennese - were trying to suppress the role they had played in the crimes committed under the regime, and wanted to use their practices to force society to confront itself.
Sigmund Freud was a touchstone for the group. It was in Vienna that psychoanalysis was born, and the Actionists echoed this symbolically by using their performances to exorcise their own traumatic experiences of WWII.
The group were prepared to act illegally in pursuit of their art: Hermann Nitsch, for example, was arrested and imprisoned numerous times for breaking Austrian indecency laws by masturbating and enacting violent sexual scenes in his performances. It was through pushing their aktions beyond legal limits that they cemented their reputation as the most extreme of 20th century Performance artists.

Beginnings

Viennese Actionism Image

At the dawn of the 1960s, Vienna was in a broken state after being ravaged by two world wars, and the city's art scene was not a very large one. Its heyday as a center for the artistic avant-garde before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 was long over, and artists who had been active during that period such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and the artists and designers of the Wiener Werkstatte were long dead. Some of the Actionists, however, would later cite these early-20th-century artists as direct influences in part because they had also rebelled against the status quo and were not afraid to offend. Rudolf Schwarzkogler, for example, was inspired by Schiele's distorted paintings of figures to make his morbid, staged photographs featuring corpse-like bodies.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Viennese Actionism Overview Continues

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]