Art Term

Actionism

Actionism is the English version of the general German term for performance art, specifically used for Vienna-based group Wiener Aktionismus founded in 1962 whose actions were deliberately shocking, often including self-torture

Arnulf Rainer, ‘Untitled (Face Farce)’ 1971
Arnulf Rainer
Untitled (Face Farce) 1971
Tate
© Arnulf Rainer

The principal members of the group were Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Their ‘actions’ were intended to highlight the endemic violence of humanity and were deliberately shocking, including self-torture, and quasi-religious ceremonies using the blood and entrails of animals. Nitsch gave his ceremonies the general title of Orgies-Mysteries Theatre. A less violent but no less anguished Vienna action artist of the time was Arnulf Rainer.

In America Dennis Oppenheim, and in Britain Stuart Brisley, performed actions in a spirit that can be related to Wiener Aktionismus.

Related terms and concepts

Selected artists in the Collection

Selected artworks in the Collection