The Bloody Past – and Hermann Nitsch’s Ecstasy | Adobe Airstream

The Bloody Past – and Hermann Nitsch’s Ecstasy | Adobe Airstream.

n 1962, Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch crucified the carcass of a slaughtered lamb while an assistant poured the animals blood over him, staining the white fabric tunic he wore, producing what the artist called a relic. The event was called Blood Organ, a precursor to Nitschs blood paintings currently on display at MCA Denver and the genesis for Nitschs extravagantly staged and choreographed ritual performances –  Aktionen, performed by his Orgien Mysterien Theater. Directed by Nitsch who serves as shaman, priest, and master of ceremonies, the Aktionen engage all five senses in an orgy of intoxication, spontaneity and impulsive frenzy to create an all encompassing, all embracing, total work of art””a gesamtkunstwerk””in which all forms are synthesized and subsumed. The events are filled with nude bodies, blood, wine, dancing, music, intoxicating scents, and tastes. Its a feast of existence, the goal of which is to restore the participants to an authentic state of being by overwhelming the buttoned-up repression that dominates the contemporary psyche.

It is, therefore, somewhat surprising that Bloodlines is such a buttoned-up exhibition. It features no Aktionen, instead presents four relics of  a “6-Day Play” that took place in August 1998,  a monumental six-day-long performance wherein the artist ceremonially re-enacted the creation story, in a decadent event he declared his pinnacle. Also shown are “Schuttbild mit Hemd (Splatter Painting with Shirt),” (above) and “Ãœberarbeitetes Schuttbild (Revised Splatter Painting),” 2007. The  exhibition on the surface appears reverential and religious. The paintings on the walls are vivid in their redness or greenness. Centered in the larger of the two galleries are six liturgical cassocks lying on wooden rack- like altars in a plumb alignment that would do Donald Judd proud. …

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