Rudolf Schwarzkogler


Rudolf Schwarzkogler, ‘3rd Action’ 1965, printed early 1970s
3rd Action 1965, printed early 1970s
© The estate of Rudolf Schwarzkogler, courtesy Gallery Krinzinger
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Rudolf Schwarzkogler (13 November 1940 – 20 June 1969) was an Austrian performance artist closely associated with the Viennese Actionism group that included artists Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, and Hermann Nitsch.

He is best known today for photographs depicting his series of closely controlled "Aktionen" featuring such iconography as a dead fish, a dead chicken, bare light bulbs, colored liquids, bound objects, and a man wrapped in gauze. The enduring themes of Schwarzkogler's works involved experience of pain and mutilation, often in an incongruous clinical context, such as 3rd Aktion (1965) in which a patient's head swathed in bandages is being pierced by what appears to be a corkscrew, producing a bloodstain under the bandages. They reflect a message of despair at the disappointments and hurtfulness of the world.

Chris Burden once remarked that a 1970s Newsweek article, which had mentioned himself and Schwarzkogler, had misreported that Schwarzkogler had died by slicing off his penis during a performance. A scene in Schwarzkogler's foto-performances had been starry-eyed misinterpreted. The castration theme in some of them — for example, in Aktion 2 he posed with a sliced open fish covering his groin — have additionally fueled this myth. Additionally, the protagonist of the Aktion in which the cutting of a penis was simulated was not Schwarzkogler himself, but his friend and model, the renowned photographer Hans Cibulka. When Schwarzkogler died, the series of performances had long been concluded. He was found beneath a window from which he had fallen, seemingly the victim of an accident. His death generated speculations and further myths.

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  • Art Term


    Actionism is the English version of the general German term for performance art, specifically used for Vienna-based group Wiener Aktionismus …

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