[Blood Bath] The Art of Hermann Nitsch

In the Denver-MCA  through the end of May are the “relicts” (relics) of one of Nitsch’s abreactive performances, enacted to liberate the repressive drives in himself and participants in his “aktions.” Instead of film, however, these are Schuttbilder paintings (poured) composed of animal blood and pigment, capturing the gestures and off-body splatters of the original performance.

Part Artaud’s idea of psychoanalytical cure through certain abject formations of theatre, part Golden Bough-type worship and slaughtering of Dionysius, Nitsch’s work is about the trace of an event, not the finished painting. Drips, clots, spatters and smears all attest to a “relic” of a non-repeatable memory or aktion. But the frenzy of the performance is always dictated by the frame: the Nietzschean reintegration of primal and social. This is repeated again in the museum’s display: in the center are a number of Catholic vestments perfectly pressed and placed upon vestibules. But on the walls is the bloodwork, surrounding the repressed pagaentry of transubstantiation, recalling the pagan roots of Christianity, when the blood was never reduced to wine.

Bloodlines: Paintings by Hermann Nitsch is on view at the MCA in Denver until May 29. www.mcadenver.org

Text by Dreux Moreland for Pas Un Autre