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A Wizard from Northern Fairy Tales

by Claudia Bottini

You have to see it. Not only because it is «Hermann Nitsch’s largest and most complete exhibition set up in Italy so far» as Italo Tomassoni writes, but because Hermann Nitsch’s OMT Orgien Mysterien Theater (Theater of Orgy and Mysteries) – Color from the Rite, set up at CIAC –  Italian Centre of Contemporary Art in Foligno by Italo Tomassoni and Giuseppe Morra, and available until August 13th, is really stunning.

The exhibition displays 40 works, divided in nine different series made between 1984 and 2010, coming from Hermann Nitsch Museum in Naples, founded in 2008 by Giuseppe Morra, an historian and publisher of his writings since 1974.


He wants to disgust us, offend us, because the Viennese performers, of whom Nitsch is still one of the most important members, had always been impressed by his performances since their formation in the 1960s, featuring images and themes inspired by a widespread disenchantment, almost desecrating, against the religious symbols, body functions and the sexual acts. We can cry the scandal out, but that will only confirm the artists’ intention «to provoke the spectator an instinctive sensual excitement .» For that, Nitsch has been arrested several times.

One of the Artist’s desecrating works, displaied at CIAC in Foligno

A Wizard from Northern Fairy Tales

The show is actually lyrical and engaging, set up as a single large openwork; it makes us think of Nitsch as «a magician from Northern fairy tales» writes Tomassoni «an aesthetic Orphism inspired by the Creation’s mystery and by the Art’s unlimited visionary opportunities.»
The Wiener Aktionismus artists, heirs of that Viennese secession and Egon Schiele, saw in the expressive intensity, in the psychological introspection of the action, the only way to communicate their inner discomfort and all the anguish and complexity of human existence.
But I find it decisive, as critics has pointed out over the years, the deep sense of guilt derived from being involved in World War II, which provokes a sense of refusal and the need to freed themselves with every means.
Among the many celebrated installations on display, we mention 18b.malaktion, 1986, Naples, Casa Morra. These are large canvases where red or spotted red color, composed as a cross, is dominated by an action painting that is pure gesture and drama.

18b.malaktion, 1986, Napoli, Casa Morra.

With the scraps, the wrecks of his performances, he created installations such as 130.aktion Wreck Installation, 2010 Nitsch Napoli Museum, large white coats and blood-stained shirts, stretches to carry bodies that become tables or altars, surgical tools such as scalpels or retractors, test tubes and alembics that refer concern to body and its lymph, lumps and paper tissues in perfectly regular lines, suggesting sensations of freshness and purity. Decomposing fruit, proof of an absurd sacrificial event, ritual and formal signs of physical and carnal facts.

Another work displaied in Foligno

Prinzendorf Castle

On the lower floor, inside a some kind of a crypt, you can watch the long video of Prinzendorf’s 1984 action, played in theaters in 2000s.
The castle of Prinzendorf, near Vienna, purchased by the artist in 1971, becomes the headquarter of his das Orgien Mysterien Theater, whose actions follow one another from the Sunday of Pentecost 1973. On July 1984, his 80th long action lasts three days and three whole nights. The tragic nature of the passive suffering on the cross, the symbolic stain of crucified Christ, is carried out in a «spiritualized», «abstract, but equally realistic» way, as Nitsch describes it. And, again: «My theater of orgies and mysteries focus on intense experiences, on the ritual in the sense of shape, creating a festival of existence, a concentrated, conscious and sensual experience of our being.»
Today he continues to carry on, intensifying and charging it with stronger implications, his idea of ​​the Orgien Mysterien Theater, as a preview of his worldwide synthetic project that involves all senses and every human action. In his Statutes he highlights the deep meaning of his art: «The commitment of art is to be the priesthood of a new existential conception […]: to free mankind from its beastily instincts.»
Opening times: Friday 16.00-19.00, Saturday and Sunday 10.30-12.30 – 16.00-19.00
Ticket: € 5,00; reduced-price ticket € 3,00. Free entry: children up to 14 years old, schools and disabled


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Claudia Bottini

Curatrice e Storica dell'arte

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