Hermann Nitsch

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Hermann Nitsch
Hermann Nitsch am 28. März 2012 bei der Präsentation seines Weines im Gmoakeller (Wien).jpg
Hermann Nitsch, 2012
Born (1938-08-29) August 29, 1938 (age 76)
Nationality Austrian
Education Wiener Graphische Lehr-und Versuchanstalt
Known for Performance art
Notable work Orgien Mysterien Theater
Movement Vienna Actionists

Hermann Nitsch (born 29 August 1938) is an Austrian artist who works in experimental and multimedia modes.

Born in Vienna, Nitsch received training in painting when studied at the Wiener Graphische Lehr-und Versuchanstalt, during which time he was drawn to religious art.[1][2] He is associated with the Vienna Actionists—a loosely affiliated group of off-kilter and confrontational Austrian artists that also includes Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler.[3]

Nitsch's abstract splatter paintings, like his performance pieces, address the excessive beauty and intensification of human existence. In the 1950s, Nitsch conceived of the Orgien Mysterien Theater (which roughly translates as Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries or The Orgiastic Mystery Theater), staging nearly 100 performances between 1962 and 1998.[3]

Orgien Mysterien Theater[edit]

Nitsch's Orgien Mysterien Theater performances, (or as he calls it, Aktion) can be considered both ritualistic and existential. The scene is often involved with slaughters, religious sacrifices, crucifixion, as well as blood and flesh. The performances are also accompanied with music, dancing, and active participants.[3]

The First Orgien Mysterien Theater[edit]

In the first Orgien Mysterien Theater performance, Hermann Nitsch and his friends used animal carcasses, entrails, and blood in a ritualistic way. The cloths, bandages and other fabrics used in these performances introduced Nitsch to the idea of making paintings.[1]

Orgien Mysterien Theater with Personal Structures[edit]

In his later life, Hermann Nitsch has been closely collaborating with Personal Structures, an international contemporary art platform.

In May 2010, Personal Structures' curators Karlyn De Jongh and Sarah Gold were "crucified" in Hermann Nitsch's 130th Orgien Mysterien Theater performance in Naples, Italy. In the week before the actual event, they took part in the rehearsals and met Nitsch every day to talk with him about experiencing life and his Orgien Mysterien Theater. On the day of the performance, Karlyn and Sarah were blindfolded, naked, bound to their crosses, to feel, hear, taste and smell all that was happening to them in the Museo Hermann Nitsch.[4]

Later in 2011, the documentation of this 130th performance was exhibited in the 54th Venice Biennale's official collateral event, Personal Structure: Time Space Existence in Palazzo Bembo, together with the works from Marina Abramović's video installation, where she was locked in a staring battle with a donkey, and Xing Xin's live performance, 2011, I Exhibit Myself In A Western Exhibition.[5][6]

An edition of the documentations of this performance was also published by the Global Art Affairs Foundation, under the title Hermann Nitsch: Under My Skin.[4][7]

In 2006, Berlin-based home video company Edition Kröthenhayn released a boxset containing a DVD featuring a 443-minutes overview of all his actions (conducted between 1962 and 2003) as well as an interview from 2005, an 80-pages book with a text by Florian Schreiner and numerous photos explaining the theoretical basis of Nitsch’s work, and a CD containing a 78-minutes recording of the 122. Aktion from the Burgtheater in Vienna performed on 19 November 2005 in a limited edition of a thousand hand-numbered copies under the title Das Aktionstheater des Hermann Nitsch zwischen Herkunft und Zukunft. Among the many actions included in this DVD its scene index specifically lists 5. Malaktion; 1. Aktion, Wien 1962; 12. Aktion, Wien, Wohnung Cibulka; Wiederaufführungen der 12., 14., 15., sowie der 20. Akton im Jahre 1988; Aktion, London 1966; Aktion, Wien 1967; 25. + 26. Aktion, New York City 1968; 33. Aktion, New Brunswick/NY 1970; 43. Aktion, München 1974; 48. Aktion, Paris 1975; 55. Aktion, Bologna 1977; 60. Aktion, Berlin 1978; 69. Aktion, New York 1980; 80. Aktion, Prinzendorf 1984; 19. Malaktion, Prinzendorf 1986; 83. Aktion, Lehraktion, Wien 1987; 85. Aktion, Brudermord, Graz 1987; 28. Malaktion, Prinzendorf 1987; 89. Aktion, Ludwigshafen 1987; 92. Aktion, Pfingstfest, Krems 1994; 94. Aktion, Trinitatiskirche, Köln 1995; 96. Aktion, Pfingstfest, Neapel 1996; 38. Malaktion, Klosterneuberg 1997; 40. Malaktion, Wien 20er Haus 1997; 100. Aktion, Prinzendorf 1998 (6-Tage-Spiel des Orgien-Mysterien-Theaters) 1. Tag/2. Tag/3. Tag/4. Tag/5. Tag/6. Tag; 104. Aktion, Lehraktion, Mailand 2000; 107. Aktion, Prinzendorf 2001; 108. Aktion, Lehraktion, Rom 2001; 109. Aktion, Lehraktion, Linz 2001; 110. Aktion, Lehraktion, London 2001; 114. Aktion, Lehraktion, Graz 2003; and 115. Aktion, Klosterneuburg 2003.[8]

Controversial aspects[edit]

Having grown up during the World War II, Nitsch reveals his fascination with the intensity of religious feelings for life in his art work with excessive means such as taboo images, nudity, bloody scenes and more. For this, he received several court trials and three prison terms. Also, it is often discussed today that his work may exemplify cultures' fascination with violence.[1][9][10][11]


  1. ^ a b c Hermann Nitsch, Discogs.
  2. ^ Hermann Nitsch, Art Directory.
  3. ^ a b c HERMANN NITSCH, By Jonas Vogt, Alexander Nussbaumer.
  4. ^ a b PERSONAL STRUCTURES Hermann Nitsch: Under My Skin.
  6. ^ Interview with Xing Xin, ARTslant.
  7. ^ Hermann Nitsch: under my skin, Google Books
  8. ^ "Das Aktionstheater des Hermann Nitsch zwischen Herkunft und Zukunft". Edition Kröthenhayn. 20 November 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  9. ^ Article in Italian newspaper La Repubblica
  10. ^ Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath: The Sacrificial Rites of Hermann Nitsch.
  11. ^ Animals, art and death: a note on Hermann Nitsch's 3-Day-Play.


  • Stark, Ekkehard. Hermann Nitschs 'Orgien Mysterien Theater' und die "Hysterie der Griechen." Quellen und Traditionen in Wiener Atikedild seit 1900
  • Winkler, Michael. Review: Hermann Nitschs 'Orgien Mysterien Theater' und die "Hysterie der Griechen." Quellen und Traditionen in Wiener Atikedild seit 1900 by Ekkehard Stark. The German Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 4, 60th Anniversary 1928-1988 (Autumn, 1988) pp. 590–591.
  • Romberg, Osvaldo. Redemption through Blood:pp. 8–13, 60-71

External links[edit]