Action art

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Hermann Nitsch , a pioneer of action art and Viennese actionism
Marina Abramović during the performance "The Artist Is Present" in the Museum of Modern Art

Performance art is an umbrella term for a number of streams of art of the 20th century, the classic forms of fine arts ( sculpture , painting exceeded) and to other media and performative extended expressions. In doing so, they contradicted the concept of art and the art world, which was often perceived as too conventional and narrow . In Vienna , action art found its expression in Viennese actionism in the 1960s .


Action art is a forerunner of artistic performance and cannot always be clearly distinguished from it. In action art, both classic working methods of visual art such as painting and sculpture , as well as newer media such as photography , film , video are used . With action art, there is a turn to more and more process-based forms of artistic practice. The Fluxus movement (Latin: flux / fluere = flowing, transient) of the 1960s, which saw itself as a flowing transition between art and life, is considered part of action art.

In action art, it is not uncommon for the artist himself to be part of the work and his body to be an artistic medium (e.g. Wolfgang Flatz ). While the separation of subject and object is a prerequisite for a classical understanding of art, in that the artist creates an artifact that can be detached from him, action art is about actions in which the artist is directly involved. Extreme such as B. self-harming actions are triggered immediately affective and emotional reactions in the viewer (e.g. Marina Abramović , Zhang Huan , Lilly McElroy ).


Christoph Schlingensief on September 17, 1999 as part of his Germany search 99 at the Volksbühne in Berlin

In the 1960s, action art developed as an intersection of art and politics , in which the happening could be both a work of art and a political manifestation (like the expulsion of demons from the Pentagon in 1967, led by Allen Ginsberg ). Well-known representatives of action art are Joseph Beuys , Nam June Paik , Asger Jorn and Wolf Vostell , who did not limit the concept of design to images, but saw it as a comprehensive intervention in the social reality of the world. Examples of this are the creative performances of the Yippies , Spontis or the actions of the communication guerrilla , such as the “raids” by the group Die Überfluigen 2005.

When Friedensreich Hundertwasser was a guest lecturer at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg in 1959, he and Herbert Schuldt , Bazon Brock and others drew a ten kilometer long endless line that stretched over the walls and doors of a university room, which caused a scandal at the time. As an action artist, Schuldt caused a sensation in 1960 with the International Exhibition of Nothing , which he initiated and which took place in a dilapidated villa in the Hamburg district of Lokstedt and only showed empty picture frames, unpainted canvases, empty film reels and lumps of clay - including the body art of Natias Neutert , who seemed to have taken possession of a non-existent chair for what felt like an hour in a pantomimic sitting posture by philosophizing about wrong thinking about possession and the difference between having and being.

Action art often takes place in public spaces and deliberately provokes media or police reactions, for example at the mixed media show in the Kunsthaus Hamburg in 1968 , where the audience was promised mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, exposure, hashish, among other things that the police had to close the event due to overcrowding and danger of collapse of the building. A very short piece for bank directors by Till Nikolaus von Heiseler and Michaela Caspar also plays with the principle of provocation . This shows the structural relationship to the Invisible Theater by Augusto Boal . In Frankfurt, the writer Hans Imhoff worked as an action artist from 1967, converting the media used by the West German student movement, such as leaflets and manifestos, for his artistic goals.

More recently, Christoph Schlingensief has stood in the tradition of action art with strongly polarizing appearances such as B. as campaigner of a specially founded party Chance 2000 in the federal election campaign of 1998, as high priest of the Church of Fear (2005), with the actions Kill Helmut Kohl (2000) and Kill Möllemann (2002) or the action Please loves Austria , a parody of that Big Brother TV format . During the campaign, Please loves Austria , a container stood in front of the Vienna State Opera, in which allegedly asylum seekers sat, whose deportation was to be voted on via the Internet (2000). In his campaign “cleared” at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (2007), Kurt Fleckenstein also takes up the subject of asylum: 100 young people sit with bandaged hands in so-called migrant bags and, in a symmetrical arrangement, symbolize the helplessness of asylum seekers when “clearing” for deportation . Most recently, the Center for Political Beauty attracted attention with campaigns such as a Schuhberg (2010) for the victims of Srebrenica or the 25,000 euro reward campaign (2012) for tips that were supposed to bring the owners of the tank company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann into custody. On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the artist collective called for the "First Fall of the European Wall" and brought the installation White Crosses across the EU's external borders to "current Wall Dead". In the summer of 2015, the Political Beauty Center buried two people who had previously drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2016, the artist collective set up a Roman arena in the middle of Berlin and looked for refugees who were willing to be eaten by tigers in the resistance against the ban on transporting refugees. The Peng Collective infiltrated an event of the Shell oil company in Berlin and staged an oil fountain there on stage (2013) or, as a supposed Google employee, presented new surveillance products to the Re: publica audience of network policy experts (2014).


Action art conceptually overlaps with process art , body art and performance, and also shows similarities to experimental theater .

See also


  • Hanna Heinrich: Aesthetics of Autonomy. Philosophy of Performance Art. Transcript, Bielefeld 2020, ISBN 978-3-8376-5214-7 .
  • Larissa Kikol (Ed.): Cultural Climate Change - Strategies and Tools. In: Kunstforum International, edition: Politics, Ethics, Art. Volume 254, 2018
  • Jürgen Schilling : Action art. Identity of art and life? Verlag CJ Bucher, 1978, ISBN 3-7658-0266-2 .
  • Thomas Dreher: Performance Art after 1945. Action theater and intermedia. Fink, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-7705-3452-2 .
  • Erika Fischer-Lichte : Aesthetics of the Performative. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-518-12373-4 . (English edition: The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. Routledge Chapman & Hall, London / New York 2008. ISBN 978-0-415-45856-6 )
  • Julia Jochem: Performance 2.0 - On the media history of flash mobs. Vwh - Hülsbusch, Boizenburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-940317-98-8 (also diploma thesis at the University of Siegen 2010, on the phenomenon of flash mob as a performative process ).
  • Denis Leifeld: Bringing up performances. For performance analysis of performers in theater and art. transcript, Bielefeld 2015, ISBN 978-3-8376-2805-0 .
  • Beuys Brock Vostell. Action demonstration participation 1949–1983 . ZKM - Center for Art and Media Technology, Hatje Cantz, Karlsruhe, 2014, ISBN 978-3-7757-3864-4 .
  • Raimar Stange, Miriam Rummel, Florian Waldvogel (eds.): Attitude as action - the center for political beauty . Edition Metzel, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-88960-171-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. See Nürtinger Zeitung: A living collage for guests. October 9, 1987.
  2. Identified and attacked (DIE ZEIT)
  3. Crack the fortress Europe (Spiegel Online)
  4. Borders must fall (Der Tagesspiegel)
  5. ^ Art group removes Berlin Wall memorial in border protest (Guardian)
  6. ^ SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg Germany: SPON - The Critic: The Trimmed Catastrophe - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Culture. In: SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved December 28, 2016 .
  7. Melissa Eddy: Migrant's Funeral in Berlin Highlights Europe's Refugee Crisis . In: The New York Times . June 16, 2015, ISSN  0362-4331 ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  8. ^ Peter Laudenbach: Controversial art action: Dead refugees, in the middle of Berlin . In: . ISSN  0174-4917 ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  9. Ines Kappert: Activists bury refugees in Berlin: The real staging . In: the daily newspaper . ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  10. Arno Widmann: Center for Political Beauty: Why don't refugees fly by plane? In: Berliner Zeitung . ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  11. Ines Kappert: Center for Political Beauty: Unfortunately no exaggeration . In: the daily newspaper . ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  12. Jens Bisky: Action Art: You are no longer there . In: . ISSN  0174-4917 ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  13. Arno Widmann: Gorki Theater: Der Mordparagraf 63, the tigers and the refugees . In: Berliner Zeitung . ( [accessed December 28, 2016]).
  14. Shell's Berlin 'Science Slam' Event Reportedly Disrupted By Anti-Drilling Activists (Huffington Post)
  15. ^ Protest at the "Science Slam": Dirt fountain against Shell (Spiegel Online)
  16. Big theater around Google (
  17. Big theater around Google (
  18. ^ How Activists Fooled The Internet With These Convincing New Google Nest Products (Fast Company)
  19. Google Nest Parody Protest Site Holds A Funhouse Mirror Up To The Search Giant (TechCrunch)
  20. Google Nest Spoof By German Activists Promises Eerie, Data-Driven Future (Forbes)
  21. Review by Michael Roslon, June 5, 2012
  22. Beuys Brock Vostell

Web links

Wiktionary: Action art  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations