Vienna Actionism: Art and Upheaval in 1960s Vienna

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Vienna Actionism was the most extreme artistic project of the 1960s, mostly preceding and always surpassing the other performance art, body art and happenings in terms of sheer violent excess. Though never officially a group, Gunter Brus, Otto Muhl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler shared a similar reaction to the restrictive political and cultural climate of the Austrian art scene of the 1950s and 1960s. They established the body as a site of exploration, and its blood, sweat and excrement as art material: performance as the transgression of both social and religious taboo, and art itself as a violent, tragic recognition of brute fact. Others, such as Kurt Kren, Ernst Schmidt Jr., Valie Export and Peter Weibel, used the medium of video and film to critique the repressive aspects of language and mass media, and the Wiener Gruppe (Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Ruhm, Oswald Wiener) saw language as a visual and acoustic material, and transformed it into collages, happenings and literary cabarets. This landmark publication includes 1,400 colour images, biographies and an illustrated chronology and index of all the actions, literature and films of the movement now recognized as one of the most significant contributions to postwar European art. This volume will be the standard reference work on Vienna Actionism for years to come.