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Hermann Nitsch

Gender: Male
Country: Austria
A controversial Austrian painter (b. 1938), performance artist and composer with thorough education, he is considered a leading represen- tative of Viennese actionism. His artistic activities go back to 1957, when he started ORGIEN MYSTERIEN THEATER, a drama group operating within three fields: painting, choreography, and para-religious proces- sions. His works are spectacular drama performances with soundtracks, accompanied by exhibition of giant canvasses splattered with dozens of litres of paint and actual animal blood. Orgiastic, para-ritual happenings, inspired by Friedrich NIETZSCHE’s philosophy, Richard WAGNER’s music, and Sigmund FREUD’s psychoanalytical concepts, they refer to the culture of Ancient Greece, especially the cult of Dionysos. They idealise the pre- Christian era as a time of remarkably healthy and strong spirituality in the name of curing the maladies of modern times. His actions are supposed to reflect bankruptcy of Christianity not only as the dominant religion, but also as the foundation of culture. They contain references to ancient mystery religions, e.g. consumption of the meat and blood from ritually slaughtered animals. Also, each performance involves splitting the carcass of a bull over a crucified actor in emphasis of a link between the Ancient tragedy and the Christian liturgy. In order to underscore the sexual aspect of the performances, where both homo- and heterosexual intimacy is allowed, he has his actors perform in the nude. Many of his actions are accompanied by monumental soundtracks he composes himself, based on the sound of Church organs, synthesizers, the harmonium, or the piano. For the actual performances he invites symphonic orchestras, Gregorian chant groups, folk bands, and even punk rock bands. NITSCH’s work has proved tremendously seminal among many industrial artists, e.g. COUM  TRANSMISSIONS, ALLER SEELEN, SLEEP  CHAMBER and AESTHETIC MEAT FRONT on account of his formula of ecstatic catharsis meant as a catalyst for internal transformation among the audience. Another highly influential concept of his embraced by many was that suggesting that a prerequisite for a complete experience of art activities such as his one must abandon any morality, break any taboos, and wholly give oneself to sacred lunacy. The metaphysical emotions induced in that sadomasochistic orgiastic process are supposed to lead to a shift in one’s perception of reality and to realisation of the sacredness of being. Selected discography: Akustisches Abreaktionsspiel (Galerie Klewan 1972) LP Requiem Fu?r Meine Frau Beate: Musik Der 56.Aktion (Alga Marghen 1977) 2 x CD Die Geburt Des Dionysos Christos (Vinyl-On-Demand 1987) 3 x LP + DVD Musik Der 80.Aktion (Alga Marghen 1989) 20 x CD-R