Otto Muehl

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Otto Muehl (born June 16, 1925 as Otto Mühl in Grodnau ( Mariasdorf ), Burgenland ; † May 26, 2013 in Moncarapacho , Olhão , Portugal ) was an Austrian action artist and a representative of Viennese actionism .

From 1970 he made a name for himself by founding a Reichian- inspired commune , the Action Analysis Organization (AAO), in which relationships between two people and small families were abolished. It had up to 600 members. Due to Muehl's authoritarian appearance, more and more Communards left the group. In 1991 Otto Muehl was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Austria for child abuse and violation of the Narcotics Act. After his release he lived in the Algarve , Portugal.


Youth and painting

In 1943, when Austria was annexed to Austria , Muehl was drafted into the German armed forces at the age of 18 . There he signed up for an officer training course, was promoted to lieutenant and in 1944 took part in heavy infantry battles in the course of the Battle of the Bulge .

After the war he completed a teaching degree in German and history, then also art education at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna . During his studies he worked as a painting therapist .

At the beginning of the 1960s he moved from painting strongly oriented towards proportion and composition to "overcoming panel painting by depicting its process of destruction", to rhizomatic , often hanging and whole rooms pervading objects made of scrap, which he called "junk sculptures", and finally to "Material Action".

Viennese actionism

In 1962 the first action-like event " The Blood Organ " took place in Muehl's basement studio , in which Muehl, Adolf Frohner and Hermann Nitsch were involved. The idea was radicalized in the spring of 1963 together with Nitsch in the “Festival of psycho-physical naturalism”. In a programmatic essay on “psycho-physical naturalism” it says, among other things: “Sometimes [I] feel the need to roll around like a pig in the mud. Every smooth surface provokes me to stain it with intense life. I crawl around on all fours and throw the dirt in all directions. ”In the autumn, Muehl carried out his first material action,“ Swamping a female body ”, in front of the camera in his studio. The action “Verumerung einer Venus” was planned as part of the “Festival of Psycho-Physical Naturalism” that Muehl had organized together with Hermann Nitsch, but could not take place due to police intervention.

From 1964 to 1966, Muehl carried out numerous so-called “material actions” , some of which were captured by the filmmaker Kurt Kren and some by the photographer Ludwig Hoffenreich . In 1966, in close cooperation with Günter Brus, he developed a new type of action in which the body itself and its functions are understood as the actual material. This form of action was heavily politicized, and Muehl formulated the “action-political” program “Zock”.

At the ZOCK festival on April 17, 1967, Muehl smashed a kitchen facility on the stage, then a lamb carcass was poured over with red paint, resulting in chaos. In June 1968, Muehl, Brus and Oswald Wiener organized the event " Art and Revolution ", which became known as "Uniferkelei", in lecture hall 1 of the NIG (New Institute Building ) of the Vienna University . This included Muehl's pissing action , with three naked men peeing in competition . The widths achieved were measured and noted on the board.

In connection with his events there were sometimes protests and legal disputes. For example, a planned action in Bremen, in which a pig was to be slaughtered, was thwarted by animal rights activists, whereupon legal proceedings were opened against the pig's rescuer, although the main issue was who was the legal owner of the animal. On December 17, 1969, at the invitation of the AStA, a pig was slaughtered in bed with an ax during an action with Hermann Nitsch at the Braunschweig Art College, while blood, various materials, urine and feces were poured over a naked woman, and Christmas carols were played over loudspeakers. Investigations by the public prosecutor's office at the Braunschweig regional court against Otto Muehl, who had also participated in the "dirty mess" himself naked, were set on March 6, 1970.

The actions were portrayed as a scandal by the press and ultimately led to prison sentences for Brus, Muehl and Wiener. Brus was convicted of “degrading the Austrian state symbols” and emigrated to Berlin .

Muehl carried out some psychodramatic actions with sexual dynamics and began in a process of reflection to differentiate his idea of ​​"action" from the happening and fluxus art, which is establishing itself as an art form . He followed a series of invitations, including in the USA, at universities and in exhibitions to carry out activities. In the “happening” he saw a thoroughly bourgeois art, art. We want to overcome this stupid art ”.

The loosely organized activities of this time were later treated in art history as a form of their own under the term Viennese Actionism . With one exception, Muehl did not carry out actions in this way in public after 1970, but did so in his commune at Friedrichshof.

Muehls commune

Establishment of the municipality

In 1970 Otto Muehl was looking for alternative ways of life. After his marriage had been divorced and close friends had not accepted the invitation to found an artists' flat-sharing community, he let young people whom he knew from his actions live with him. His 120 m² apartment on Vienna's Praterstrasse 32 was transformed into a reception center for young artists, students and bizarre existences on the fringes of society. By 1971, a solid core of about ten people had formed who did odd jobs. Otto Muehl still earned his money through tutoring.

Action analysis and self-presentation

After the first group analyzes in the municipality under the guidance of the therapist Josef Dvorak , whom Muehl knew well from the time of his own conversation analysis in the early 1960s, had failed, Muehl began to see himself as a therapist. The commune experimented with psychoanalysis and Reichian bodywork under his guidance. From this, inspired by the writings of Wilhelm Reich , but above all by the therapy methods of Fritz Perls Gestalt therapy , Alexander Lowen ( bioenergetic analysis ) and Arthur Janov ( primal screaming therapy ), the "action analysis" developed. This became an essential part of community life based on “free sexuality”, “shared property”, “growing up children together” and “promoting creative creativity”. There was also the slogan of the “armor removal of the self”. Physical violence was also exercised, such as the so-called "slap analysis" as an experiment in some individual cases, in which slaps in the face should lead to reliving childhood and thereby breaking the "body armor" according to Wilhelm Reich.

Later the “action analysis” was further developed into the so-called “self-presentation”, which was practiced in front of the group gathered in a circle, accompanied by music and drums. It became an essential means of communication and organization within the growing community. As a result, there was always a certain pressure on the members of the group to develop their creative skills, for example in theater, music, as a cook, as a fashion designer or even just as an integrative, charming person.


The conceptual basis was the conviction that hierarchies exist everywhere in society, but are only built and maintained in a hidden way. The Muehl commune now wanted to reverse this: hierarchies were deliberately and openly negotiated and designed. The position of the individual in the group structure was rotated, e.g. B. weekly, redefined by giving each candidate for an advancement the opportunity to showcase their creative skills in the group, through singing, music, acting and other.

The social, communicative and therefore also sexual attractiveness determined the position in the group: “We openly stated who was particularly good at sex at the time. And of course many would want to have a date with the most popular sex idols. ”Critics see this hierarchy as an instrument of discipline that led to a loss of self-confidence among the underdogs.

Rejection of two-way relationships

The fundamental rejection of two-way relationships did not arise until May 1973, when Muehl returned from a trip to the USA and found that his girlfriend Elke had meanwhile left the commune. Muehl succeeded in getting all Communards to break up their two-way relationships; some couples who did not want to separate left the group.

Two-way relationships were then only viewed and rejected as a compensation for the lovelessness experienced in childhood in the “small family society”.

Establishment of the municipality

The Muehl commune quickly became known in the Viennese anarcho and art scene. The mixture of psychoanalysis and actionism was attractive to many, the group grew and became an outwardly self-confident community. The short haircut and dungarees became trademarks of all Communards.

The Friedrichshof

The Friedrichshof was the dilapidated remnant of what was once a large country estate belonging to Archduke Friedrich , located lonely in the Parndorfer Platte , in Burgenland around 60 kilometers southeast of Vienna , without electricity or water. It was bought in the fall of 1972 and expanded until 1974 so that the growing municipality could move there. In the following period up to 1979 there was a large influx of interested parties.

Up to 240 people could live on the Friedrichshof itself. A high-performance biological sewage treatment plant was built, electricity and telephone were supplied from outside, a school (later with public rights) was built, as well as various workshops (carpentry, mechanic), a transport company (mostly clearing out) and a small farm (pig breeding with up to eight mother sows and a large garden for self-sufficiency). There was also a handicapped group around Muehl's spastic daughter Lili, whose mother was his future wife Claudia.

City councils and community property

From 1976 municipalities in Vienna, Munich, Geneva, Paris, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin and Oslo, each with up to 40 members. As the socio-cultural center of Muehl, the Friedrichshof was the main attraction.

The principle of communal property - there is no private property, everything, even clothing, belongs to the commune - was extended to include all communes, which from 1976 onwards called themselves AAO .

In 1978 the principle of community ownership was declared ended due to empty coffers. Community companies were closed, the Communards should return to their trained professions. The "AAO" was also officially dissolved in the spring of 1978 - but since the municipality continued to exist, the public continued to refer to it as such.

When, in the mid-1980s, some city groups generated high income from the sale of tax-saving models and financial investments, communal property was reintroduced and the money flowed to the Friedrichshof.

Peak in the early 1980s

In 1983 the community had grown to around 600 members who lived on the Friedrichshof or in one of the 20 to 25 city groups. Otto Muehl, who rarely left the Friedrichshof, secured his influence through the use of group leaders who rotated between the city groups and the Friedrichshof.

The commune was called a " sect " by its opponents because of its common property and free sexuality . Public relations work with lectures or test groups with self-portrayal for guests was then reduced and stopped entirely from 1984. New members were not accepted, which led to the isolation of the community.

The places of residence of the members were determined from an economic point of view. Small and unprofitable locations were closed and their members distributed among the most successful large groups in Zurich, Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin.

More and more children were born. In the mid-1980s, more than 80 children were already living on the Friedrichshof and were attending project lessons at the municipal private school. Often they were separated from their mothers in order to prevent the emergence of small families, which were considered to be the root of all evil. The fathers were mostly unknown anyway and were not identified at the time.

The size of the collective, together with the collectivization of property and sexuality, led to a lack of intimacy, retreat and self-determination.

Late period of the municipality from 1985

From 1985 onwards, as Theo Altenberg describes, a “completely grotesque development” began. Otto Muehl saw himself as a monarch and his son, born in 1985, as heir to the throne. He stopped making interesting statements, instead repeating old heroic stories and liked to talk about his alleged genetic superiority over other men. At the same time, he began to fight critics within his own ranks and, at meetings, urged ordinary members to attack leadership members who were suspected of deviating. More and more people left the group, the number of adult Communards dwindled. Muehl declared the Swiss Claudia Weissensteiner to be his "first" wife. In total he had eleven children from different women.

After the Chernobyl reactor disaster in 1986, the municipality bought a large, secluded piece of land on the Spanish Canary Island of La Gomera , a finca in the El Cabrito valley ; Part of the group moved there permanently, the rest of the group used it as a holiday retreat.

Dissolution of the municipality from 1988

Critical ex-Communards supported young women of the second generation after they left the commune in filing a complaint against Otto Muehl for sexual abuse. When the public prosecutor started investigating in 1988, Muehl had the diaries of Communards collected and burned without their knowledge in order to destroy evidence. He used the resulting ashes as material for so-called "ash pictures" that he created.

Many dissatisfied communards wanted, if not the commune, to dissolve the communal property in order to gain more individual freedom. Since Muehl refused to give up his influence for a long time, they could only prevail against him in autumn 1989. The common property was brought into a "Friedrichshof housing cooperative" and distributed equally in order to find a fair solution for members who are leaving. The old leadership was voted out. The commune was dissolved, the Friedrichshof divided up for newly formed families. Many ex-Communards moved away, but other people who had nothing to do with the project moved in again.

Muehl, too, lived with a small group at the Friedrichshof for a year after being relieved of all offices, before he was taken into custody in 1991.

Trial and conviction

In 1988, criminal proceedings against Otto Muehl were opened in Austria, in which members of the commune also testified against him. The prosecution stated that “raising the offspring together” for Muehl included sexual abuse and rape of children and young people. In addition, drugs were passed on to young people.

Muehl countered this by stating that all sexual acts always followed the self-imposed rules of the group, whereby children learned to deal with their sexuality early and consciously. Muehl did not want to acknowledge that this constituted a clear contradiction to the laws in Austria and caused lifelong damage to those affected, and he rejected suggestions from his advisors, for example through repentance, to achieve a more favorable judgment.

In 1991 Otto Muehl was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for "moral offenses, fornication with minors up to rape, violations of the narcotics law and the influence of witnesses", which he served in full. The public prosecutor stated in his plea, among other things: “Muehl has carried out terror. ... Otto Muehl experimented with people, he manipulated them. ... The young people were not there voluntarily, he had taken their parents and with it the opportunity to leave the commune. "

Muehl after 1991

In prison, too, Muehl worked intensively on fine arts and painted around 300 pictures.

A reading by Muehl in the Burgtheater in Vienna on February 11, 1998, initiated by Claus Peymann after Otto Muehl's release from prison , was once again the occasion for fierce cultural-political debates, including in the Bundesrat , the regional chamber of the Austrian parliament.

As a result, Muehl withdrew abroad. After 1998 he lived in a group of 14 adults and their children in Faro , Portugal. Despite a progressive Parkinson's disease , from 2002 onwards he developed the so-called electric painting films , digital photos of actions painted on the computer, cut into films that deal with his everyday life and his life in the group. In addition, excess art objects were created in which paint is applied directly to the canvas from the tube.

The Vienna Museum of Applied Arts has devoted two large solo exhibitions to him since 1998. In 2010 Muehl celebrated its 85th birthday, on this occasion the Leopold Museum in Vienna presented Muehl's late work in an extensive exhibition. At the opening press conference of this exhibition on June 10, 2010, Otto Muehl apologized for the first time in an open letter to his victims for his sexual assault.


  • "I've already made mistakes in the commune, but certainly not in sexuality." (Arte Metropolis, December 8, 2001)
  • "Why should the state stipulate when one can have sex?" (FAZ, February 22, 2004)
  • “I'm not a child molester. That's nonsense. They were all developed girls. "(2004)
  • “I am portraying the victims of repressed sexuality. If sexuality is forbidden too much, the natural path is buried and the water looks for other paths. Actionism in Austria was thoroughly misunderstood by officials of the judiciary and police. All campaigners had to go to jail several times. "
  • “Every progressive educator knows that punishment, even life imprisonment and execution of so-called criminals, which a violent system produces itself, is of no use. Nobody is born a criminal. A society without coercion cannot be realized with underage creatures disfigured by training. "
  • “... the statement made by the youth in the courtroom at that time stunned me. I wanted to free her and instead took her by surprise and offended with sexual transgression. It was by no means my intention. I hope that you will forgive me ... "(2010)


  • Get out of the swamp . AA-Verlag, Nuremberg 1977, ISBN 3-85386-006-0 . (Autobiography)
  • From prison. 1991-1997 . Letters / Conversations / Pictures (preface by Michel Onfray). Ritter, Klagenfurt 1997, ISBN 3-85415-214-0 (interviews with Danièle Roussel).
  • with Diethard Leopold (ed.): Leopold Collection : June 11, 2010 to October 4, 2010, Leopold Museum (on the occasion of the exhibition "Otto Muehl - Leopold Collection"), Brandstätter, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-85033-471- 6 .


  • Otto Mühl et al .: "Das AA Modell", Vol. 1. AA-Verlag, Neusiedl am See 1976, 317 pages, ISBN 3-85386-003-6 . With contributions by Otto Muehl, Walter Weissensteiner, Claudia Weissensteiner, Christine Kuczera, Karl Iro, Terese Panoutsopoulos, Arpad Hälbig, Hansi Bauer, Brooke McGowen-Skopik, Herbert Stumpfl, Bernd Stein, Toni Altenberg, Babsi List, Eva Huss, Elisabeth Stein and Robert Trotter.
  • Father's children frustration. SPIEGEL reporter Fritz Rumler on Otto Mühl's "AA" commune , from: DER SPIEGEL 20/1977.
  • Hermann Klinger: "AAO KO or how we do not imagine liberation. On the theory of the action-analytical organization of conscious life practice (AAO) and its implementation in alternative forms of life". Living Guerilla Commune Verlag (without year or ISBN; approx. 1980)
  • If “you move out, you will become a whore” - Otto Muehl's wild goings-on in his communities in Burgenland and on Gomera , from: DER SPIEGEL 19/1989.
  • Hubert Klocker (Hrsg.): Wiener Aktionismus. Vienna 1960–1971. The shattered mirror. Günter Brus , Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch , Rudolf Schwarzkogler . Graphic Collection Albertina , Vienna, March – April 1989, Ritter, Klagenfurt 1989, ISBN 3-85415-062-8 .
  • Kalina Kupczynska: "Unsuccessful attempt to learn to fly - manifestos of Viennese actionism". Würzburg 2012
  • Andreas Schlothauer: The dictatorship of free sexuality AAO, Mühl-Kommune, Friedrichshof , publishing house for social criticism, Vienna 1992, ISBN 3-85115-157-7 .
  • Peter Stoeckl: Commune and ritual. The failure of a utopian community . Campus-Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-593-35074-2 , dissertation (investigation of the municipality and its development; contains reports from members of the municipality.)
  • Danièle Roussel: The Viennese Actionism and the Austrians. Ritter-Verlag, Klagenfurt 1995.
  • otto muehl 7th painting from prison 1991–1997. Exhibition catalog, MAK Vienna, 1998.
  • William Levy: Impossible: The Otto Muehl Story. Barany Artists, New York 2001
    Our friend Otto Mühl. A study on culture shock. Translated by Christian Loidl , Piepers MedienXperimente, Löhrbach 1998, 95 p., Series: The green branch, ISBN 3-925817-99-9 .
  • Robert Fleck: The Mühl commune: free sexuality and actionism - history of an experiment . König, Cologne, 2003.
  • Thomas Dreher: Performance Art after 1945. Action theater and intermedia. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-7705-3452-2 , chap. Viennese Actionism, Collective Action Forms, pp. 192–216, 235, 237–241, 256, 268–273, 276 ff., 289 f. ( online ).
  • Peter Noever (Ed.): Otto Muehl. Life / art / work. Action utopia painting 1960–2004. Catalog for the exhibition March 3, 2004 to May 31, 2004 in the MAK , König, Cologne 2004, 414 pages, mostly illustrations, ISBN 3-88375-680-6 , announcement of the exhibition .
  • Mühl, Otto. A former communard takes stock: Andreas Schlothauer: The dictatorship of free sexuality AAO, Mühl-Kommune, Friedrichshof. In: Robert Schediwy (ed.): A century of illusions. Economy, Politics and Culture in the 20th Century , Salzwasser-Verlag, Bremen 2008, ISBN 978-3-86741-090-8 , pp. 182-189, online text .
  • Raimund Samson: Paradise on the frying pan. From one who went out to find his self (Norderstedt 2003) ISBN 3-905052-81-4 (autobiographical report on experiences in the Friedrichshof)


  • The children from Friedrichshof. The Otto Mühl commune. Documentary, Germany, 2009, 81 min., Written and directed: Juliane Großheim, production: unafilm, arte , first broadcast: July 18, 2010 on arte, summary by arte
  • My no family . Documentary, Austria, 2013, 93 min., Concept and direction: Paul-Julien Robert, production: FreibeuterFilm, world premiere: April 19, 2013 in the Gartenbaukino . Broadcast on November 2, 2014 on 3sat
  • TV show: “People at Maischberger: The psychotricks of the gurus: Faith, happiness, brainwashing.” March 3, 2015 (from minute 51) Available at until March 3, 2016 | Source: The First .
  • My Talk with Florence Documentary, Austria, 2015, 129 min., Written and directed by Paul Poet

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Otto Muehl is dead ,
  2. Andrea Schurjan: Action artist Otto Muehl died at the age of 87. In: The Standard . May 26, 2013, accessed June 18, 2015 .
  3. Michael Freund: "Maybe I am a psychopath". In: Berliner Zeitung . February 21, 2004, accessed June 18, 2015 .
  4. ^ Actionism Chronology in: Archieves Otto Muehl
  5. Otto Muehl: ZOCK - Aspects of a Total Revolution, 1967; 2nd edition (100 copies) 1968
  6. William Levy: ZOCK: The Outlaw Manifesto of the Century (2002, English)
  7. ZOCK hard on April 21, 1967: Program in, report with photos at WM Pühringer
  8. Samuel Herzog: The immeasurable core., May 27, 2013, accessed on May 27, 2013
  9. Petra Kipphoff: The pig of Braunschweig. In: The time . January 6, 1970. Retrieved March 4, 2015 .
  10. a b Artlife ( Memento of the original from May 17, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. in: Archieves Otto Muehl @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. a b c d Andreas Schlothauer: The dictatorship of free sexuality
  12. a b c d e f g h i Peter Schär: Brief history of the Friedrichshof commune - attempt at an overview. (PDF, 82 kB) In: July 2011, accessed March 4, 2015 .
  13. Willi Winkler: I'm the dirty guy downstairs. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . May 27, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2013 .
  14. PAOLO BIANCHI: Commune experiment Friedrichshof - a lost paradise! Theo Altenberg on art, sex and the Mühl monarchy. In: Telepolis . June 26, 1997, archived from the original on June 28, 2013 ; accessed on March 4, 2015 .
  15. a b c d e f Theo Altenberg: The Paradise Experiment. The utopia of free sexuality - Friedrichshof Commune 1973–1978. Triton Verlag, Vienna 2001.
  16. Art: The authoritarian (PDF; 114 kB) Profile 11/04 of March 10, 2004
  17. ^ Art: The Panzerknacker (PDF; 114 kB) Falter 07/04 from February 11, 2004
  18. Information on a Swiss site on religions and world views , accessed on May 27, 2013
  19. ^ Margalit Fox: Obituary (English) , May 29, 2013. Retrieved June 4, 2013
  20. Growing up on Otto Mühl's Friedrichshof - The Days of the Commune taz October 24, 2013
  21. Arno Frank: To the death of Otto Muehls: The disinhibition of art., May 27, 2013, accessed on May 27, 2013
  22. Arno Frank: To the death of Otto Muehls: The disinhibition of art., May 27, 2013, accessed on May 27, 2013
  23. Stenographic minutes of the 636th meeting of the Federal Council of the Republic of Austria on February 12, 1998
  24. a b Almuth Spiegler: Otto Muehl - Obituary ( Memento of the original from December 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. May 28, 2013 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. Broadcast "Kultur heute" on June 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm on Deutschlandfunk .
  26. "I'm the dirty guy down there" - conversation with Otto Mühl Die Zeit 10/2004 on February 26, 2004