LITERATURE, PERFORMANCE, PHOTOGRAPHY, ART. The Wiener Gruppe and an international context.

Duration from: 20 March – 16 May 2015

Based on the Wiener Gruppe and its members H. C. Artmann, Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm, and Oswald Wiener, presented through one of the most comprehensive photographic documentaries by Franz Hubmann, the exhibition shows additional Austrian artists from this circle and its successors in comparision with international positions. 

Belonging to the most important contemporaries of the group are Marc Adrian, Kurt Kren, Ernst Jandl, Dieter Roth, Dominik Steiger, followed by the actionists Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. In an international context, the circle further includes artists Robert Cumming, Hamish Fulton, Bruce Nauman, Carolee Schneeman, or William Wegman, who integrate the elements of performance, photography, and literature into their work. As representatives of the next generation, ranging from Hans Weigand, Franz West and Heimo Zobernig up to the contemporary artists Christian Eisenberger, Zenita Komad, and not least the group Gelitin with its “Kakabet.”


The members of the Wiener Gruppe wanted a radical break with the traditional view of art and, as Hubert Klocker explained in 1998, they saw art as representing systems of social and political reality and behavior and they tried to intervene in these processes of communication. […] Along with interventions of a language-critical nature, there were ‘non-lingual’ performances that presented taboo areas. The ‘Piano Interactivities’ (Klavierzertrümmerung) was written into art history as an anticipation of Viennese and international Actionism. […] The body in its pure physicality and not as a signifier was presented provocatively by Bayer and Wiener, in reference to body building and also to what we know today as international body art, which was to begin just a few years later. […] There were attempts to present—in equal treatments of—objects, photos, films, and actors. Other attempts went in the direction of mechanized and automated object-theater.

The group’s best-known theater events are the two literary cabarets of 1958 and 1959, performed by Achleitner, Rühm, Wiener, Bayer and several other actors. The literary cabarets brought together all forms of theater into one concentrated form. […] There were chansons and shocking actions, such as the famous Piano Interactivities; dance improvisation, exhibition of objects in a kind of object theater, poetry reading, projections, films, and readings, music on various instruments and classical piano music, sound, and recordings of sound collages interchanged in their performance.

Many ideas remained at the conceptual level back then. As we know, the Wiener Gruppe dissolved at the beginning of the 1960s.
(Quoted from the lecture by Evelyn Deutsch-Schreiner: “Wirklichkeitsinterventionen. Performative Provokationsästhetiken der Wiener Gruppe als Reaktion auf das starre kulturelle Klima der Nachkriegszeit”.)

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