O.M.T. Colore dal Rito
by Italo Tomassoni and Giuseppe Morra
25th March to 9th July 2017
"My theatre of orgies and mysteries is a concentration of intense experience; ritual in the sense of form, creating a festival of existence, a concentrated, conscious and sensual experience of our being (there)," Hermann Nitsch.
From 25th March to 9th July 2017, CIAC (Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea), in Foligno will host Hermann Nitsch’s O.M.T. Orgien Mysterien Theater (Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries) – Colore dal Rito (Colour from Ritual), a personal exhibition dedicated to the great Austrian master of Viennese Actionism and the Informal, creator of numerous much-debated and memorable installations.
Curated by Italo Tomassoni and Giuseppe Morra, gallery owner since 1974, and publisher of Nitsch's writings, to which he dedicated a museum in Naples in 2008, the exhibition brings together around 40 works divided into nine different cycles of works from the period between 1984 and 2010, presented as one great open work at CIAC, which once more diversifies its exhibition activities, offering an opportunity to meet one of the leading protagonists in international art from the second half of the twentieth century.
Hermann Nitsch (1938), the major exponent of Viennese Actionism, developed his idea for the Orgien Mysterien Theater (Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries) between 1957 and 1960. It is a total art experience linked to the concept of Abreaktion, a term from psychoanalysis, referring to an emotional discharge that allows individuals to remove the effects of dramatic events. For Nitsch, the performance of orgiastic and onanistic acts, with the staging of sacrificial rites, allows a cathartic release from religious, moral and sexual taboos. Meanwhile, Nitsch painted following the tachist approach – embracing the immediacy of the act of pouring or splashing paint onto the canvas, even using the hands directly. From 1961, Nitsch began working with slaughtered animals, using their blood as paint. At the same time, the number of participants in his actions began to grow, attracting passive actors hung up on crucifixes and sprinkled with blood, and active ones using animal entrails, thus diversifying the materials used and the forms of staging on offer. Nitsch never ceased to incite controversy, leading in 1965 to a two-week prison sentence, but at the same time, his circle of international relations widened, especially in Germany and the United States. In 1971 he bought Prinzerdorf Castle in Austria and it became the seat of his Orgien Mysterien Theater. In 1974 he came into contact with Giuseppe Morra in Naples, and Morra's Studio would become Nitsch's reference gallery and publisher. It was here that OM Theater 2, his fundamental theoretical work, and the musical scores of his many stage productions, were published. The seventies and eighties saw ever more frequent participation in large international exhibitions, actions in prestigious museums, and musical performances. In 1984, his 80th action lasted a full three days and nights, and ten years later Morra published the full score. From the nineties, Nitsch took his exhibitions across the globe, all marked by an expressive power inherent in his wreck installations consisting of the objects, huge canvases, scores, and graphic design projects that have animated his most intimate artistic experience, into which theatre, painting, music, photography, video, and performance all flow.
The exhibition features some of Nitsch's famous installations, such as 18b.malaktion, 1986 Naples, Casa Morra. These are huge canvases dominated by the colour red, spilled or splashed onto them, "an action painting," says Nitsch, "that performs a dramatic function, involving the audience, in a dramatic happening that manifests itself as a kind of litany, within my theatre, through an exhibition of painting." And then there are demonstrative-theoretical actions such as 108.lehraktion 2001 Rome, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, where Nitsch uses more large canvases to highlight the basic elements of his theatre, seeking "the profound secret of colour" and giving precise instructions regarding his aesthetic theory, his philosophical speculations and his idea of the cosmos.
Also on show is the 130.aktion: installazione dei relitti, 2010 Museo Nitsch Naples, where the artist produces independent works, but at the time reworks some of his previous stage actions with elements coming from the action itself, such as a large white canvases and blood-bespattered doctors' white coats, stretchers that have been used to transport bodies which become tables or altars, surgical instruments such as scalpels and speculums, tubes and stills that recall the body and its humours, sugar cubes and paper handkerchiefs placed in perfectly regular lines, suggesting sensations of freshness and purity. Wrecks appear as installations of what has already happened, a testimony to an absent sacrificial event; ritual and formal signs of physical and carnal realities.
Also on display are some emblematic canvas prints such as Die Eroberung Jerusalem, 1971-2008, Grablegung, 2007 and The Last Supper, 1983, works inspired by religious themes, where Nitsch is fascinated by the sensual enactment of ritual, and especially the Eucharist, which transforms every individual into a Christ. Bread and wine, basic human foods, become instruments where life and death are intertwined and, through ritual, revive in man the essence of the world, the transformation from death to resurrection, bringing us to an awareness of selfless love.
"Nitsch does not exhaust the metaphorical and theoretical complexity of his objects and actions in his rituals,” says Tomassoni. “From the rite emanates, as the name of the exhibition suggests, a chemistry of colour and a potential for aesthetic phenomena that go far beyond the liturgical confines of the action."
With Colour tables (2008), an installation consisting of ten tables drawn in crayon, we encounter a completely new approach: here Nitsch relates to colour directly, to its beauty, searching for "the possibility of further enhancing this beauty with combinatorial art, and identifying synaesthetic relationships with other sensory perceptions."
The installation section concludes with some works created in 2010 for the Nitsch Museum in Naples, where we see once again some of the objects used in the famous wrecks: images of Christ, sugar cubes, religious vestments, flasks, powders, plasters, syringes and forceps.
The exhibition is completed by nine lithographs from the Architecture of the OM Theatre cycle made between 1984 and 1987-1991, where each painting appears as part of a larger staging, and where Nitsch expresses his theory of Architecture, the most complex and important aspect of his Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries. These works have a dual nature: on the one hand, they constitute a basic model of an underground labyrinth going down six or seven levels that Nitsch wanted to build under the castle in Prinzerdorf. On the other hand, the different floors embody the time dimension, anticipating the drama that the artist would put on stage in the future. The architecture of the O.M.T. is ultimately an underground cosmos, an interior castle.
Lastly, visitors will be able to see numerous volumes by Nitsch written over the years, bearing witness to his vast theoretical output.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an exceptionally complete catalogue that will not only illustrate what has been described here, but will contain a vast record of Nitsch's complete works and bibliography.
An exhaustive journey through the complex and philosophical poetics of Hermann Nitsch, a personality representing the tensions, problems and issues of contemporary society to the highest degree.
Via del Campanile, 13 – Foligno, tel. 0742 481222 – 342 3682454
Exhibition opening times: Friday 4pm to 7pm, Saturday and Sunday 10.30am to 12.30pm and 4pm to 7pm
Tickets: € 5.00; reduced € 3.00. Free admission for children under 14 years, school groups and disabled persons
Centro per la Cultura e lo Sviluppo Economico srl Unipersonale
(directed and coordinated by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno)
Via del Campanile n.13 06034 Foligno PG C.F/P.IVA 03092480544 Tel/fax: 0742 353230
R.I. di Perugia n. 03092480544 R.E.A. 263214 Cap.Soc. I.V. euro 100.000,00