When Günter Brus made his way to the University of Vienna with artist friends on June 7, 1968, during busy student and other times, he naturally had no idea that the action planned there would accompany him for the rest of his life.
The action was entitled “Art and Revolution”. Brus cut his chest and thigh in a lecture hall, defecated and masturbated on stage while singing the Austrian national anthem. For this he was sentenced to “aggravated arrest” in Vienna for “degrading the Austrian state symbols” and “violating morality and modesty”.
Viennese actionism at its best, gone down in history as a “university piggy”. Brus, who was born in Upper Styria in 1938, had already founded the Vienna Actionism group in 1964 with colleagues such as Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. She brutally and publicly opposed the common understanding of art and brought her own body into the game of art, drawing and revolution.
During his first performance in 1964, Brus completely painted his own body, and a year later, on the so-called Vienna Walk, he simply divided his naked body into two halves with a black line and made his way from Heldenplatz to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The police caught him and fined him for disturbing public order.
After he was sentenced again after the same action at the University of Vienna, Brus fled with his wife and child to West Berlin in 1969, where he stayed until the end of the 1970s and gradually emancipated himself from his actionist work.
In fact, the “Order Test” that he undertook in Munich in 1970 was not only the last of these artistic actions, but as such it could no longer be increased. The self-harm had reached the limits of what was possible and had also lost its meaningfulness. The body is a battlefield, and every factory worker and farm worker ultimately knew how to sing a more authentic song about it.
There is a Bruseum in Graz
Brus subsequently began to work on Viennese Actionism through drawings and literature, wrote and painted the novel “Irrwisch”, which was exhibited at documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972, founded a publishing house (Das Hohe Gebrechen) and published prose, picture-poems and series of drawings. His work includes around 60,000 drawings and almost a thousand picture poems, which includes a lot of Expressionism, Art Nouveau and Gustav Klimt.
His home country also made peace with the long-hated man: Brus received the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1997, in 2003 the Albertina in Vienna dedicated a retrospective to him, and in 2004 he was awarded the Kokoschka Prize. Since 2011 there has been a “Bruseum” in the Graz Joanneum with rooms in which his work is permanently exhibited. Günter Brus died on Saturday in Vienna at the age of 85.