The exhibition, staged at Zac in Palermo, entitled Hermann Nitsch: The Orgies Mysteries Theatre (Das Orgien Mysterien Theater) allows the viewer to understand the complex artistic, philosophical and existential research of one of the major artists of the century, inventor of an innovative force of artistic gesture.
On show, forty large canvases, plus a larger canvas of about ten metres, which will be positioned on the floor. There will also be forty photographs related to the performance, which will constitute as the cornerstone of Nitsch’s ‘actions’, founder of Viennese Actionism, as a symbol of secular and cathartic ritualism in which origins lie deeply and remotely in collective rituals, which are dionysiac.
These performances are the main protagonists of the numerous videos, also a part of the exhibition, which narrates the most important actions, achieved during the decades by Nitsch himself in his castle in Prinzendrof, near Vienna.
To complete the journey there will be a large “pharmacy”, a two-storey structure that the artist has filled with fetish objects. The theorisation of the ‘Theatre of Orgies and Mystery’ happened in 1957, thanks to research that was highly influence by psychoanalysis aimed at restoring the primordial link between man and life through extreme practices of great impact. The ceremonies of Hermann Nitsch usually last several days, always hanging in the balance between Christian rooted liturgy and a more extreme pagan ritual. A process of liberation that goes through performances with animals already destined to be slaughtered, of which blood, yet again, refers to both a sacred world and a profane one, and in which the cooked meats are consumed by the participating audience. “The starting point of my art has always been theatre, and in particular Greek tragedy. But in my theatre there is no fiction, everything truly occurs, it happens” said Hermann Nitsch.
From 1971, the artist has elected his castle in Prinzendorf as a place of reference for his Orgies Mysteries Theatre, where in 1998 he created a performance that lasted six days. It is indeed, through the gestuality of the ritual and together with the presence of moods and blood that the celebration reaches its climax, often passing through a brutality which is part of the human being, who can finally free himself and reach a catharsis. The canvases and the large white coats used and worn during the performance become pure painting, and the subsequent exposure of these completes the ritual. The music also plays a important role in the work of Nitsch: brass, strings, percussion, and shouts that enhance the extreme reasons of life and death, work together to create a crescendo that involves the participants of the show and the audience.