Closed Universe?


New Forms of Viennese Actionism in contemporary art?
The exhibition Closed Universe? questions the existence of a trend towards radicalism as defined by VienneseActionism, in regards to concept, form and content, in current visual arts.

The political zeitgeist in Vienna in the 1950‘s and 1960‘s was marked by reconstruction and conservatism. Viennese Actionism arose as a response to this and to the ensuing new form of the Austrian sense of identity. As the main participants in the Viennese Actionism Group, Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch und
Rudolf Schwarzkogler, distanced themselves from official cultural policies and the controlling influence of the church on the arts. In order to do so they attempted to transcend the boundaries and genres of painting through radical actions. Inspired by Abstract Expressionism, Informalism, Tachism, Action Paining and geometric and constructivist art, the Viennese Actionism Group produced progressive and system-critical actions with similarities to be found in the American Happening and Fluxus movements. An additional focus was their interest in making inner states visual through physical expression, similarly to Egon Schiele or Arnulf Rainer. The Viennese Actionists transcended classical artistic genres, they negated the distinction between
art and life replacing it with intensity and immediacy. In doing so they enabled themselves to use artificially generated and strategically deployed emotional categories which originated in society, such as disgust. Their use of emotion such as disgust created not only a biological reaction but also an aesthetic categorization.

Günter Brus‘ (*1938) use of his body as material in his work successively increases the urgency in his performances. Hermann Nitsch (*1938) however, uses his material actions to develop his OrgienMysterienTheater, in doing so he assumes the role of director. Actively involving the public, he guides them towards mental cleansing with a proclaimed goal of breaking taboos.

In addition to the first public presentation of 25 back and white photographs by Kurt Benning, the 43rd Action by Hermann Nitsch, from the 15th January 1974 at the modern theater in München-Schwabing and the noted performance Stadtspaziergang by Günter Brus from 1965. The exhibition Closed Universe? also presents selected works and artistic concepts from the Viennese Actionist Artist donhofer. (*1983) and the Berlin based artist Marc Aschenbrenner (*1971).

donhofer‘s spectacular, highly polished public‚ actions‘ question current events in a critically humorous manner. Marc Aschenbrenner determines and challenges the boundaries of genres through performance. The central motives being the dissolution of person and image and the symbiotic amalgamation of figure and space. Despite the works own conceptual and visual formal language, the pieces by both artists still display tendencies towards Viennese Actionism. Without subscribing the exhibits and ‚actions‘ to a certain tradition, the exhibition focusses on possible analogies. Is it possible to view the artists as having conceptually inherited the spirit of the Viennese Actionist movement? Is it possible that a modified transference of the still influential
group could be relevant today? It is these questions which are present in the graphic collaborative works of Günter Brus and Thomas Palme (*1967). These artworks can be seen in the exhibition Closed Universe? for the first time.

Nadia Ismail

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes
Limited edition "don't be so square" - 76 pieces

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