17 | 02 – 20 | 05 | 2024
Guided Tour in Dialogue with Roman Grabner and Thomas D. Trummer
Thursday, April 4, 6 pm
A man steps out of a Citroën 2CV. He is dressed in white and completely colored with white paint. A blotchy lack line runs up the center of his body, starting at his right foot and continuing over the man’s sports jacket, neck, mouth, nose, and the top of his head, ending on the back of his body at his left heal. The man is a living picture, a walking sculpture. The black line stains his body, divides it, and at the same time, holds it together like a zipper Günter Brus set out on his Wiener Spaziergang (Vienna Walk) on July 6, 1965, on the Heldenplatz as a living memorial—as an undead man protesting against the authoritarian climate of the time. It wasn’t long before Brus was arrested and fined for disturbing the public order. His arrest reflected the conservative attitude of postwar Austria. Further Happenings followed, including Selbstbemalung I + II (Self-Painting I + II), and his even more radical Selbstverstümmelungen (Self-Mutilations). Brus tested art on his own body; his movements and gestures performed in public led to the dissolution of painting’s boundaries. His transgression of pain thresholds triggered a feeling of anxiety and lent the event a drastic seriousness. Brus became a pioneer of Body Art and a forerunner of Performance Art.
As early as 1964 the artist painted himself white in the course of his first performance Ana, a multipart and several-hour-long “action.” With his right hand he drew a brush loaded with black paint over his head. His eyes were closed, as was his mouth. Brus stood in front of a white screen. Image and painting act, motif and painter became one; at the same time, a ghostly alienation and fragmentation took place. The split is the hallmark of an art that recognizes loneliness as a symptom of damage to social life. “Self-painting,” Brus remarked in 1965, “is a further development of painting. The picture surface has lost its function as the sole medium of expression. … Incorporating my body as an expressive medium results in an event that the camera records and the viewer can experience.”
With Günter Brus, Kunsthaus Bregenz is presenting the oeuvre of a Viennese Actionist for the first time. The show focuses on the photographic documentation of his epochal Happenings and Performances as well as his Informal paintings. These often large-scale works are characterized by erratic, wild gestures. The painting is perceived as an aggressive act; it is a testament to disinhibition, twitching disruption, and a death impulse that forces its way to the surface.
Günter Brus (1938-2024), together with Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, is a co-founder of Viennese Actionism and a pioneer of Body Art. The Austrian painter, graphic artist, and performance artist is among Austria’s most important artists. As a writer, he incorporated literature into his pictorial and graphic work in a completely new way. Brus’s oeuvre has been presented in renowned institutions, including at the Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, in 2006; MACBA, Barcelona, in 2005–06; the Albertina, Vienna, in 2003–04, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 1993–94. Günter Brus participated in documenta 7, in 1982, documenta 6, in 1977, documenta 5, in 1972 in Kassel. In 2011 the BRUSEUM, a museum devoted to the artist’s work, opened in the Neue Galerie in Graz.