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Book Review: Orgien Mysterien Theater




Orgien Mysterien Theater, Hermann Nitsch

Hermann Nitsch’s controversial ceremonial performances have always appealed to the younger generations, who want to go beyond acceptable ethical limits and feel strong emotions. The Austrian esthetic, which he and others started fifty years ago, has spread out across the globe and is still influencing artistic trends today: think of Damien Hirst’s cow heads or Mike Kelley’s.performances.
Nitsch's latest version of the famous Orgie Mysteries Theatre Festival, based on Richard Wagner’s Parzifal, will be held from Saturday, July 31st to Monday August 2nd, 2004 at Prinzendorf castle, making it four days shorter than the 6-day edition in 1998.
The Austrian activist Hermann Nitsch developed the concept of the Orgien Mysterien Theater in the late 1950s, a life-affirming work of Performance Art, encompassing all artistic forms, to awaken the senses. However, Nitsch’s work is not considered disturbing anymore and he is tired of being called a murderer and an animal slaughterer. The bull slaughtering and bloody atrocities now take place behind the scenes, like in a Greek tragedy.
This will be good news for Brigitte Bardot, who in 1998, together with animal rights activists, picketed the six-day Nitsch extravaganza. In his defence, Nitsch would say that if you can get over the initial shock and look beyond the blood and gore, you will see that it is simply a demonstration of how animals are murdered every day for meat. Birth and death - day and night - quietness and chaos - blood and wine, all are omnipresent themes emerging in Nitsch’s painting, music and theatre.
A new Nitsch publication accompanies the festival, taking the readers through his world of taste, smell, sound, colours, and fantasy. It contains illustrative drawings on religion, philosophy and psychology. He has also composed numerous theoretical writings, poetry, and musical compositions and taken numerous photographs to accompany over 120 action performances. Music has always played an important role in his artwork, particularly the tragic Dionysian slaughter music. At the festival the spectator will overwhelmed by processions, foot washing, spilling of blood and carcasses of farm animals over mock-crucified bodies, the crushing of grapes: 120 actions focused on the theme of the Grail.
"The Grail legend – WOUND - christ's side wound -the amfortas' wound - chalice - monstrance - spear - sexual organ - the grail is the chalice which christ used at the last supper, (...)" "Parsifal: uncover the grail, open the shrine" (Extract from page 78 of Nitsch’s book)
Hermann Nitsch’s art work will always be controversial and open to criticism.

Hermann Nitsch, Das Orgien Mysterien Theater, editor: o.m. theaters, german, 2004.

www.nitsch.org

Text: Marzia Belvisi
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