Hermann Nitsch

born 1938 in Vienna; lives in Prinzendorf

Biography

From 1953 to 1958 Hermann Nitsch studied applied graphic design at the Wiener Graphischen Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt (Vienna Federal Training and Research Institute of Graphic)

In 1957 he had the idea for his Orgies Mysteries Theater, and has been continuously working on its development and expansion to the present day

In 1962 Nitsch staged his first action, and since then he has performed more than 150 actions internationally (and more than 70 painting actions)

In 1971 he purchased Prinzendorf Castle in Lower Austria, which he sees as the main venue for his Orgies Mysteries Theater

In 1998, in his 100th action, Nitsch was able to perform a six-day play for the first and hitherto only time

Nitsch has taught at the Salzburg Summer Academy, the University of Fine Arts Hamburg, and the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Together with Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Hermann Nitsch is a key protagonist of Vienna Actionism.

He considers his entire artistic production as part of his Orgies Mysteries Theater, a total work of art that he has been working on and continually developing and expanding since 1957. It encompasses all artistic media, and its main aim is to achieve catharsis by acting out repressed psychic energies. This should lead to a more aware and more intensive experience of existence, and to a heightened appreciation of being. Thus, in all of the different manifestations of his artistic project, Nitsch aims for highly intensive experience and the greatest possible use of the senses, both in moments of excessive orgy and high energy and in phases of quiet contemplation. Nitsch draws on the principles and the intentions of numerous myths and cults from diverse religions, and also on the fundamental aims of Greek tragedy and the psychoanalytical thought of Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung.

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Starting with classic forms of spoken theater, in 1960 Nitsch discovered the sensual and excessive »Dionysian-dynamic« potential of informal action painting, which he soon began to expand by using real objects and substances to finally arrive at actions, in which he not only worked with objects and substances, but also with human and animal bodies. These actions became more and more expansive – from the very beginning Nitsch intended to work toward a six-day performance, which he only managed once, in 1998.

Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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Music

Music

Music has always been part of Nitsch’s Orgies Mysteries Theater. It can be an element of his actions, or take the form of independent concerts, which the artist also sees as components of his Orgies Mysteries Theaters.

Right from the early days, Nitsch conceived primal screaming or noise music as part of his theater. In 1966, at the Destruction in Art festival in London, he for the first time had a screaming choir and a noise orchestra at his disposal. He also integrated Viennese Schrammel music and brass music, Gregorian chants, rock, and African and Asian music in his work.

In the 1980s, concerts independent of the actions became more frequent and significant. Nitsch composed pieces for orchestra, organ respectively harmonium, and string quartets, which he sometimes conducted himself, or played in as a soloist on the organ or harmonium. He has also designed the sets for several operas, and directed them, the first of which was Hérodiade by Jules Massenet at the Vienna State Opera in 1995.

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Nitsch first became interested in classical music when at school. His favorites are Richard Wagner and Alexander Scriabin, and also the Austrian composers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who tested the limits of tonality, or transgressed and redefined them: Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, and the representatives of the Second Vienna School Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. »Classical music was always the basis, and to a certain degree also breaking out of classical music, which I always still see as a classical phenomenon.« (Nitsch)

Nitsch also likes avant-garde composers after 1945, including John Cage and Glenn Branca. He is also interested in African and Asian music.

In the early 1970s, Nitsch participated in the Selten gehörte Musik (Rarely Heard Music) concerts by artist from the circle of Vienna Group and of Vienna Actionism.

Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Hermann Nitsch

Orgelkomposition in 4 Sätzen / composition for organ in 4 movements, 2013

Jesuitenkirche Vienna, 20. 11. 2013, with Hermann Nitsch, Frank Gassner, 53:48 min

Film: Frank Gassner

Hermann Nitsch

Sinfonie, 1985

Graz Orfeum, Steirischer Herbst, 19. 10. 1985, with Süd-Ost-Sinfonieorchester and Grazer Studentenchor, directed by Hermann Nitsch and Clemens Gadenstätter, 1:13:33 h

Film: Peter Kasperak

Author:

Eva Badura-Triska