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Excess och aktionskonst en semiotisk analys av Hermann Nitschs Das 6-Tage-Spiel med betoning på första dagens Mittagsfinale

by Sternudd, Hans, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
The subject for this dissertation is the Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch’s Das 6-Tage-Spiel (1998). The purpose is to examine in what way Das 6-Tage-Spiel, as part of the orgien mysterien theater (hereafter o. m. theater), is an adequate means to realize Nitsch’s intention (as he has described them outside of the work in writings and interviews). Das 6-Tage-Spiel is an example of a category of scenic works that in the dissertation is named action art. The definition of action art is an important part of the dissertation. Typical for action art is an absence of illusory elements; it's composed of non-representative actions, which are conducted in a situation with an obvious spectator function. The absence of fictional settings is dominant and central to action art. In a comparison between action art and other semiotic categories ritual comes closest. In both ritual and action art there's a mix of semiotic actions (that are commenting on the world) and instrumental actions (that change the world) together with an absence of a fictional "I", here and now. A close reading of one scene (Mittagsfinale) from Das 6-Tage-Spiel’s first day reveals a work that consists of the actual staging of dramatic elements (carcasses and crucifixions). Different dichotomies (life and death etc.) are exposed with the goal to unite them in a mysterium coninctionis. The composition is additive (as in a Gesamtkunstwerk) and relies on a redundant repetition of the different leitmotivs. Fundamental for Nitsch is C. G. Jung’s theory of archetypes. A central point in all the actions in Nitsch’s oeuvre is the exposure of real objects that have gained a symbolic value in cultures and religions. With the means that action art provides he gets a possibility to show the true nature of the symbols for those present (audience and participants), according to Nitsch himself, whereby they acquire an understanding of the symbols beyond the limits of speech (and the way language categorizes nature). Nitsch works in a romantic tradition that aims to reunite an existence which has been divided into two halves (for instance in mind and matter). He uses concrete direct expression that does not communicate through speech. In the analysis of Mittagsfinale that's presented in Excess and Action Art an adjusted sign model for action art is being used. The model stresses the importance of a physical level (that a long side with a pictorial and plastic level builds up the sign). For the attendant it's a crucial aspect that it's the real thing that's being used in the action, that it isn't paint instead of blood for instance. The strong reaction from people present in Nitsch’s actions and those who encounter them in a mediated form are due to the non-representative character of o. m. theater. In o. m. theater one is confronted with an experience that's comparable with extreme life events, catastrophes and so on. These states can be experienced as something beyond the scope of language. As in politics, religious action and violent social behavior when the actor runs short of words (or at least they are not sufficient anymore), Nitsch’s work resorts to action. When such actions, as in the case of o. m. theater, take the form of slaughtering animals and exposure of blood it certainly causes a lot of problems regarding the reception from the general public.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Lunds universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Aesthetic subjects; Hermann Nitsch; orgien mysterien theater; Das 6-Tage-Spiel; Wiener Aktionsgruppe; action art; actionism; performance art; Art history; Konsthistoria; stage art; semiotic

ISBN:91-89648-08-0

Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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