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Günter Brus

(b. 1938)


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(1938– )

Austrian Performance artist, draughtsman, and painter. Born in Ardning, he was one of the leading Vienna Actionists. As with his colleagues Nitsch and Muehl, his activities were designed to stretch the endurance of the performer and the tolerance and strong stomach of the spectator. Performances focused on the degradation and mutilation of his own body. The most notorious was the Test to Destruction, carried out in Munich in 1970. In this work he knelt in a slip and high heels on a white sheet. After cutting his shaved head he called in a calm voice for a glass, into which he urinated (green) and drank the urine. The entire action lasted about 25 minutes, after which he passed through the audience on the way to the toilets. Following this, Brus considered that he could take these actions no further and his subsequent artistic activities were in the form of exquisitely crafted drawings, sometimes with a fairy-tale atmosphere which almost recalls Arthur Rackham, but with a sinister aspect. Self-castration is a recurrent theme. From 1969 onwards Brus edited the journal Die Schastrommel (Shit Drum) to document the activity of himself and the other actionists. Its subtitle, ‘organ of the Austrian Government in Exile’, reflected the legal persecutions the Actionists had suffered in their own country. (Brus had left after a performance which involved masturbating in front of the Austrian flag.) He once said: ‘Art is beautiful but it is hard like a religion without a purpose’ (Stiles and Selz).

Subjects: Art.


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