Vienna Actionism was one of the most radical artistic movements of the twentieth century and has lost none of its contentiousness today. In the early 1960s its main protagonists Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muehl and Rudolf Schwarzkogler went beyond the boundaries of painting in favor of actions with real bodies, objects and substances in space and time. Their objective was a “direct” confrontation with sensory and psychic reality in all its aspects—including those that are tragic, difficult to stomach and above all socially repressed—which would be intensified through artistic form in order to bring about heightened consciousness. They pursued this with radicalism and unwillingness to compromise that is almost unparalleled in the history of art. Response to their actions, or to the photographic and filmic images which they generated, was and is accordingly intense. Their work caused uproar and scandal—not only at the time it took place—but it also provoked discussion on taboo issues and in the end was a co-initiator of a process of social rethinking.
In art-historical terms Vienna Actionism made a significant contribution to those international developments of the 1950s and 60s that returned to subject matter taken from the ‘real’ world after Western post-war art had been dominated by abstraction and its introspective content.
As an international competence center for Vienna Actionism mumok not only holds significant works by the Viennese actionists Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, but also contemporary documentary materials and numerous recordings, notebooks, action photos, sketches, and correspondence. The collection presents the development of actionism from its early challenge to painting to the expansion of painting in favor of staging events in space and time. This unique collection is the world’s largest.