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Hermann Nitsch

From 16 October to 12 December 2021, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (10 Skārņu iela, Riga) will host a solo exhibition by Austrian avant-garde artist Hermann Nitsch entitled "The Theatre of Orgy and Mystery".

In the 1960s, Hermann Nitsch (1938), together with Günter Brus, Otto Muehl and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, formed one of the most radical art movements of the 20th century, known in art history as the "Vienna Actionists". His life's work was the Orgien-Mysterien-Theater of the late 1950s, an intense artistic experience combining painting, theatre, music and lyricism with liturgical and religious elements.

At the heart of the Orgy-Mystery-Theatre is the idea of creating something more than a theatrical production, and Hermann Nitsch believes that this is only possible when both spectator and actor are equally involved and transformed. In a sense, this is art therapy, which the Viennese Actionists arrived at by gradually studying the works of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich. One cannot passively observe the mystery of orgies in the theatre and remain neutral, as Otto Mühl said: "Our action was not only an art form, but above all an existential attitude."

The venue of the exhibition, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (DMDM), located in the former St George's Church (1204), the oldest surviving stone building in Riga, was not chosen by chance. Reinventing Christian rituals is one of the most important components of Nich's art. The space itself thus becomes an important element of the exhibition, where the main points of the artist's oeuvre come together. The exhibition features the most significant ritual works of Hermanis Ničs - documentary footage from the actions of the Orgy Mystery Theatre, culminating in the action "Six Day Game", examples of action painting, large-scale prints and documentary photographs.

"Orgy and Mystery Theatre" is the first Hermanis Ničs exhibition in the Baltics, and thus a unique opportunity to get to know an artist who has influenced not only the fields of action painting and performance, but also the development of contemporary theatre art.

The exhibition is accompanied by an educational programme - talks with the artist, a series of discussions and lectures, performances and classes for young people.

The exhibition is accompanied by a booklet of essays by Hermanis Ničs, Igors Gubenko, Laine Kristberga, Vilnis Štrams and Līna Birzaka- Priekule, as well as an audio guide in Latvian and English.

On 16 October at 14.00, a performance by artist Andas Lāce "It is hard to distinguish whether it is the hypocrisy of the size of the orgy or whether everyone here has suddenly suddenly become better" in collaboration with composer Evija Skuke will take place at Doma laukums. The artist will reflect and confront the impulses of Hermann Nitsch's ideas and create a procedural painting object during the performance. Anda Lāce is attracted to the ritual in Nitsch's work and how performative expressions create lasting works of art that retain a strong energy of the action that took place.

Hermann Nitsch is an Austrian avant-garde artist, one of the "Vienna Actionists". In their rituals (actions), members of this artistic movement often use self-mutilated bodies, desecration, animal entrails, urine, faeces, blood as a means of expression, thus showing a subconscious reaction against the "purification" of post-war Austria from its crimes, participation in National Socialism and the Holocaust.

Hermann Nitsch lives and works in Prinzendorf Castle, where the legendary action "Six Day Game" (1998) took place. The Nitsch Museum is located in Mistelbach, Austria. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate Gallery, London, and many other collections.

Līna Birzaka-Priekule