Hermann Nitsch (born 1938 in Vienna) is one of the co-founders of Viennese Actionism and ranks among the most important performance artists in the contemporary world. His magnum opus Orgien Mysterien Theater presents a new form of Gesamtkunstwerk—or synthesis of the arts—by uniting painting, music, and action. In 1957, he conceived of the idea for his Orgien Mysterien Theater, which roughly translates as Theater of Orgies and Mysteries. Since its inception, it has resulted in the production of 155 performances, 80 painting actions, and countless works in different art disciplines.
By staging actions of cultic worship, by working with blood, and by adopting rituals of the church and including ecclesiastical objects, Nitsch searches for the essence of life in his art. He thus creates a vivid experience of the mysteries of faith, life, and art. His approach and his performances, which many consider to be very radical, have brought about a revolutionary change in the definition of theater and the concept of art in the 20th century.
This publication explores Hermann Nitsch’s Gesamtkunstwerk with its great variety of disciplines and offers an extensive overview of the unique oeuvre of this versatile artist. The main focus is on his 20th painting action which he staged 1987 in the Vienna Secession. Rated as Nitsch’s chief work, it is his only painting action worldwide that has been preserved in its entirety.