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Otto Mühl (* 1925) / Ludwig Hoffenreich (1902–1975)
3rd Material Action, Klarsichtpackung
From the portfolio with 45 mounted photographs „Otto Muehl Materialaktionen 1964–67”, ed. by Kunstagentur Karlheinz & Renate Hein, Munich
Austria, Vienna, Mühl’s studio, Obere Augartenstraße, 26.2.1964
Cibachrome Print, ca. 30 x 30 cm
Signed, titled „Klarsichtpackung” and numbered „14/20” on the mount

In the beginning of the 1960s Otto Mühl, a trained art educator and teacher of German and history became a painter. The introduction to Günter Brus and Alfons Schilling and their informal paintings in 1961 greatly influenced his work. Mühl’s paintings were abstract and focused on colour as the main creative material. He worked with his hands and feet, was rolling over his canvases and denied/ignored all compositional teachings. Eventually he started to rip the canvases and tie them up. His paintings became installations. He occasionally drenched his material montages, made from scrap iron and junk, in colour.

In the autumn of 1963 Mühl executed his 1st action „Versumpfung einer Venus” (swamping of a Venus) and extended his concept of material montage with human material. The inspiration was taken from his introduction to Hermann Nitsch, who had already performed his first painting actions. The 3rd material action consisted of four parts: „Klarsichtpackung” (transparent film wrapping), „Versumpfung einer Truhe” (swamping of a chest), „Panierung eines Gesäßes” (battering of buttocks) and „Wälzen im Schlamm” (rolling in mud). The image above shows a sequence from the first part, in which Mühl threw mud and colour onto the naked body of a woman, tied her up and then wrapped her in transparent film. Like most early actions, this performance ended with the dissolution and mixing of all materials, the so called swamping, what remained was brown pulp.

Mühl’s work was shaped by the uninhibited, intoxicating, creative act, he was splashing dirt and colour on his pieces and in his later period provocative sexual acts were incorporated in his works. On the other hand he followed a painterly material aesthetic that he developed into still lives consisting of bodies and material.

The photographic documents of the actions were part of the concept. Three photographers – Hoffenreich, Klein (Kasag) and Haberler – and the camera man Peter Jurkowitsch, participated in the third material action. For his portfolio Mühl chose only the images taken by Hoffenreich, as they came closest to his intention of showing a unification of all materials: The human body here seems to be an object amongst many.

Michaela Seiser, © WestLicht

Lit.: Viennese Actionism 1960–1971, Vol. 2, The Shattered Mirror, ed. by Hubert Klocker in cooperation with Graphische Sammlung Albertina Wien and Museum Ludwig Köln, Klagenfurt 1989, p.185–190.