They were “Time Magzine’s” 1966 “heroes of the year”. More than 40 years later Austria rolls out the red carpet for “Vienna Actionism”. Playing a central role in these celebrations is the Gunter Brus retrospective “Work Orbit” at the Albertina (Vienna), and now at the Neue Galerie in Graz.

From 1964-1970 G. Brus used his own body as a medium for his radical performances. The artist got arrested and had to leave Austria as a consequence of these “actions” (“Viennese Stroll”). He turned to increasingly narrative drawing works in Berlin. In comprehensive painting cycles during the last decades, Gunter Brus reached a rich synthesis of the figural, calligraphic and textual components of his compositions, the iconography and language of which are shaped by fantastical new creations. The exhibition “Work Orbit” stretches across the chronology of works by Gunter Brus and presents early, hitherto unexhibited abstract drawings (around 1958), as well as action studies, photographic and film documents of the actions (1964-1970). In this section the curator Monika Faber screens the most famous films about the performances of Gunter Brus. One of them, officially called “September 20” (1967), has entered avant-garde film history under the well-deserved (but still much too earnest-sounding) title “The Eating, Drinking, Pissing, Shitting Film”. A vast selection of subtle drawings and pastel sheets (since 1971) indicates the stringency of his art works always working with the human body.

The show renders “homage” to the artist in a beautiful exhibition, but the almost too perfect display doesn’t reveal him as a “Provokateur” anymore. Walking through the old baroque rooms where the show takes place, his work takes on a kind of “classicism “. This reminds me of a concern a neighbour in Graz had about G. Brus during the sixties. When she saw him through the open window - colored and naked on the canvas in preparation for one of his despicable performances, she exclaimed: “My God, Mr. Brus, what happened?”

—Walter Kratner, Weiz, Austria

- Cheryl Meeker [Sunday, March 21st, 2004]


From the editors