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Hermann Nitsch (* 1938) / Siegfried Klein, aka Kasaq
Fototableau with 12 photographs from the 8th Action, Penisbespülung [„penis flushing”]
Austria, Vienna, Nitsch’s appartment, Jedlersdorfer Straße, 22.1.1965
Gelatin silver print, 65 x 50 cm
Signed, dated, titled and numbered „1/1” on the reverse

The greater dramaturgical concept of Nitsch’s „Orgien-Mysterien-Theater” (OMT) discerns itself from his colleague’s Mühl, Brus and Schwarzkogler’s actions, as they are previously determined by minutely defined scores that direct the process and give it a ritualistic character. Individual acts or whole actions can hence always be repeated and newly combined, whereas Brus’s, Mühl’s and Schwarzkogler’s actions are conceptualised as unique events.

During the 1960s Nitsch formulated the dramaturgical elements of his OMT part by part. Already in his first actions the central motifes of the crucifixion (1st action 1962), of the tearing of the lamb (2nd action 1963) or of the Dionysian Festival („Fest des psycho-physischen Naturalismus” 1963), were manifesting themselves. In 1965 he added the new element of the body collage to it, the „Penisbespülung” (the irrigation of the penis). During this procedure the penis of the protagonist is drenched in blood and eggs or covered in meat, intestines and sanitary towels. In January of 1965 Nitsch drew up designs for the process that would be the first „Penisbespülung” during the 8th action, in which all positions are minutely defined and described, also predefining the exact angle the photograph should be taken from.

Nitsch’s 8th to 11th actions were staged exclusively for the camera, he worked with the language of shapes and aesthetic translation. In collaboration with photographer Ludwig Hoffenreich he created the photo tableau visible in the above image. It consists of a photograph of an arrangement of prints of the 8th action on which Nitsch left a diverse set of marks.

Because of the precarious financial situation the actionists were in, they were not immediately able to make enlargements of the images of their actions. Ludwig Hoffenreich financed the film and gave the artist’s prints of the material and they could then order enlargements of specific photographs from him. Nitsch’s aesthetic concept is clearly visible in the marks, he prefers strictly rectangular compositions and he mostly avoids shortenings, distortions and perspective. From the 11th action Nitsch’s early body actions were photographed by Heinz Cibulka, who was better at capturing Nitsch’s aesthetic intentions than Ludwig Hoffenreich.

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. 267–290.