Zerreißprobe: The Evolution of Wounding in Günter Brus's Actionist Performance Practice

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Viennese Actionism was an explosion, a movement that violently rejected artistic, social, and cultural tradition. The obscene nature of these artists’ body-based actions provoked a storm of controversy in the context of conservative postwar Austrian society. Focusing on the use of the artist’s body as a medium, this paper examines the emergence of the cut as a recurring motif in the performances of Actionist Günter Brus. Through close interpretation of a series of actions staged between 1964 and 1970, I chart the evolution from figurative to literal cutting in Brus’s oeuvre. In doing so, I examine the manifestation of the traumatic experience of a losing ideology is reflected in self-inflicted violence, and how Brus’s embodiment of the wounded, debased male hysteric repudiates the idea of the heroic Nazi masculine ideal. This analysis forms a rebuttal of some the mythologies that have come to surround discussion of Actionism, focusing on Brus’s ritualistic and, at times, almost meditative invocation of self-injury.
Period28 Feb 2024
Event titleResearch Forum for German Visual Culture seminar series
Event typeSeminar
Degree of RecognitionRegional