Radical Austria | Everything is Architecture


20 July 2021

This text by Bart Lootsma was originally published in the accompanying catalog of the exhibition. You can find the full catalog here.

Actionism is the unique Austrian brand of performance art, with Hermann Nitsch, Günther Brus, Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Otto Mühl as its main agents. By means of choreographies with naked bodies, paint and blood, combined with loud music, they intoxicate the participants and the audience.

Günter Brus, Ana, 1964. Photo: Siegfried Klein. Courtesy Atelier Otto Mühl.

Inspired by the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, the Actionists wanted to free the people from the bourgeois oppression that leads to fascism and war. The liberation of the body is central to this. Hermann Nitsch refers to his Orgien Mysterien Theater as plays in which the participants can release their pent-up aggression.

The Actionists move in the same circles as the progressive architects, exhibiting their work in the same galleries. In Otto Mühl’s video Wehrertüchtigung, a group of young students, who would later establish the architecture collective Zünd-Up, are submitted to a shared humiliation inspired by military drills.

Like Hollein and Pichler emphasize the cultic and ritualistic origins of architecture, the Actionists often refer to rituals and attributes of the Roman Catholic Church, turning everyday phenomena such as sexuality and the slaughter of animals into spiritual theater.

Otto Mühl, Wehrertüchtigung, Aktion 40, 1967 (still). Collection mumok – museum der moderner kunst stiftung ludwig, Vienna, acquired with the support of the Gesellschaft der Freunde der bildenden Künste, Vienna, 2009.