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Viennese Actionism

Viennese Actionism is the most important Austrian contribution to international avantgarde developments in the Sixties that extended the definition of art. Similar to the contemporaneous Nouveau Réalisme, Fluxus or American Literalist Art, artists regarded the pictorial surface as no longer suitable because, in the final analysis, the medium is always illusionistic and, led by their feelings, they turned to working directly with real bodies, objects and substances.

Austrian art of the 1950’s and 1960’s is formatively influenced by reactions to a restrictive political and cultural climate. The Wiener Gruppe (Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm, Oswald Wiener) implemented their concept of thinking of language as visual and acoustic material in collages, typogrammes and happening-like events such as the Literarischen Cabarets [Literary Cabarets] (1958-59) and thus prepared the ground for the Viennese actionists.

In their efforts to overcome the illusionism of the easel picture, Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler arrived at performative works intended to enable a perception of reality as unadulterated as possible. With their painting and material actions, body analysis and manifestoes they opposed the state and the prevailing social order.

Alongside numerous important works of Viennese Actionism there is also extensive documentation to be found in the mumok’s archive of actionism.