Otto Muehl

(b. 1925)

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(1925– )

Austrian actionist and painter, born in Grodnau. He was one of the group of Vienna Actionists and, arguably, the most extreme, although ‘playful’ is a term which has been used by some commentators. Originally a painter, he defined his ‘material actions’ in painterly terms. He viewed the destruction of the canvas in 1961 as his ‘big bang’. In 1964 he wrote ‘paint is not a means to colour but is mush, liquid, dust, the egg is not an egg but a gooey substance’. This thinking brings him close to the ideas of Georges Bataille, who is quoted in the films of his actions. These films were made by the photographer Kurt Kren (1929–98), whose use of rapid intercutting and colour filters sometimes makes it hard to fathom exactly what is going on. Scheisskerl (1967) starts innocuously enough with a woman eating meringues but she subsequently excretes over Muehl's body and into his mouth. When Muehl is sick it is not clear whether this was planned as part of the action. Artistic actions were not enough for Muehl, who founded the AA Commune, in which money and women were held in common. The attempt to fuse Marxist ideas about the abolition of private property with sexual liberation was characteristic of the 1960s but few attempted to carry it out with such rigour and persistence. Part of the idea was to bring children up without sexual repression. When the commune fell apart Muehl was imprisoned for seven years for ‘sexual offences’. He has also made Pop style paintings of political leaders.

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/38/muhl1.htm Interview with Otto Muehl (‘An Actionist Begins to Sing’), Bright Lights Film Journal.

Subjects: Art.

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