relic (actor’s smock), 138th action, Leipzig (Germany)

Hermann Nitsch (AT)
Relic of a performance and video, 2013

Hermann Nitsch developed the Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries in the mid-1950s. It is a basic experience of excess and a celebration of resurrection, sadomasochist excess and catharsis, a brutal dismemberment and a harmonising synthesis, an incantation of the myth as a contracted worldview and psychoanalytical therapy. Every descent into the perverse and the unappetising takes place for the purpose of bringing about healing awareness. Increasing disgust and horror, and crossing all boundaries and taboos should ultimately lead to an affirmation of life transcending life and death; being is to be embraced in its entirety.

This actor’s smock is a cotton shirt with traces of blood. It is a relic of the 138th ‘action’ (how Hermann refers to his performances), which took place on June 22nd, 2013 in Leipzig, Germany.

About the artist: 

Hermann Nitsch is regarded as one of the most versatile contemporary artists: action performer, painter, composer (symphonies, organ concerts), and set designer. His synthesis of the arts, the Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries, encompasses the broad spectrum of his art by calling on all five senses — the tragic leads us to becoming involved with flesh, blood and intestines. In the 138th action he emphasises the power of creating symbols as being superior to language, saying “blood is a vivid symbol of life, a real and direct sensual impression of blood, the emotional recognition of the basic substance of life, is superior to scientific explanations.” An incredibly visceral and at times disturbing work, the 138th action is illustrative of a long lineage of artists using blood both as a medium and symbol in their work.