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WestLicht featuring photography by Nitsch

WestLicht featuring photography by Nitsch

Documenting his controversial actions as well as that of Viennese actionism provides insights into the thinking and work of Hermann Nietzsche, who died last year. Nietzsche lived artistic practice with the “Theater Orgien Mysterien” as a combination of text, music, drawing and performance. “We can clearly see how he thought about it,” curator Julia Moebus Buck said on a radio show.

Together with Fabian Knierim, she is responsible for the idea for the show “Hermann Nitsch: Motion Pictures 1963-1984”. Although Nietzsche did not consider photography an essential part of his “Theater Orgien Mysterien”, photographic documentation was essential to its reception. For example, the fourth action occurred with the audience excluded and only for the cameras. Over the past two years there have been protests, police operations and a series of complaints.

“Photography without jokes”

According to Knierim and Moibus Back, Nitsch was partly dissatisfied with the images provided by photographers such as Ludwig Hoffenreich, Franziska and Heinz Cibulka or Stefan Moses. But this primarily concerned the self-portrait of his art, in which the artist was interested in a holistic and therefore sensual experience.

Photo series with 6 photos

According to Moibus-Back, Nitsch himself is said to have said, “I want a no-frills portrayal.” One could thus describe Franziska Cibulka’s photographs of her then-husband Heinz from 1965, which are also part of the exhibition. Heinz Cibulka acted in Nitsch’s twelfth action as an actor – presenting his torso and discreetly exposing the pubic area.

The works, created mainly between 1963 and 1966, served the artist as thematic studies for the “Orgies Mysteries Theatre”. The works also allowed an understanding of the work’s origin from informal painting. “These recordings give us a unique opportunity today to watch one of the most complex artists of the 20th century contemplate and develop his greatest works,” says Knierim.

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An exhibition of about 120 works

Exhibition notice

Hermann Nitsch: Action Photography 1963-1984, 02.03.2020 to 14 May 2023, Photo Museum WestLicht.

“With all the excitement that the ‘Orgien Mysterien Theater’ arouses to this day, hardly anyone knows the specific background and events,” says Peter Quillen, founder of WestLicht. For Coeln, who contributed most of the approximately 120 exhibits from his collection, this was precisely why a separate exhibition was dedicated to Hermann Nitsch’s photographs for the first time.

According to WestLicht’s founder, “photographically frozen moments” from 1963 to 1984 will reveal a lot of detail. They would make Nitsch’s “true intentions” visible through their “concise visual language”. In addition to a selection of original prints, there are also rare contact papers to see, which aim to make the artist’s compositional ideas comprehensible even to laymen.