VALIE EXPORT / Peter Weibel, Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit, Sujet 4, 1968/2003, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Schenkung aus Privatbesitz, Fotograf MUMOK / Rastl, Deinhardstein, © Peter Weibel / Valie Export (VBK Wien).

Vienna Action Group: Performance Narratives from the 1960s

Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Vienna
Museumsplatz 1
+ 43-1-525 00
Level 1, Level 3
Fokus 03: Concept. Action. Language. Vienna Group, Vienna Actionism, Conceptual Art, Fluxus and Pop Art
December 15, 2007-March 30, 2008

Fokus 03 is dedicated to the most important developments in art from the late 1950s through to the 1970s. The main interest here is the interrelationship of linguistic, visual and performative forms of representation. Within this field of focus the exhibition will present the interdiciplinary influences between visual art, literature, film and theory and set that in a multi-layered, socio-cultural context.

For the first time since the reopening of the MUMOK works of the Wiener Gruppe are to be seen in a collection exhibition and amongst these are important new acquisitions and holdings in the area of Conceptual Art. Viennese art movements in the 1960's that are usually dealt with separately, are mutually contextualised from the point of view of linguistic analysis. On a further level they correspond with the international interplay between Pop Art, Fluxus and Conceptual Art. Selected loans, such as the Learning Machines of Fluxus-founder Georges Maciunas that are being shown in Austria for the first time, complete the exhibition.

Austrian positions in the late 1950's and 1960's are strongly influenced by reactions to the restrictive political and cultural climate. Within this context the exhibited linguistic investigations by the Wiener Gruppe refer to representational conventions, both textual and visual. Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm and Oswald Wiener realized their ideas of language as a visual and acoustic medium in, amongst other things, collages, typogrammes and happening-like group events such as the Literarischen Cabarets (1958-59). With a precisely defined use of materials such as photography and writing their linguistic analyses revealed the media-related basis of social clichés.

In their efforts to overcome the illusionism of the conventional picture, Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler were led to performative works which were intended to enable the least possible distortion of reality. Their painting and material actions, Körperanalysen (body analysis) and manifestos against the state and social organisation correspond to the consciousness of language and material found in underground film and expanded cinema. Kurt Kren, Ernst Schmidt Jr.,VALIE EXPORT and Peter Weibel break with the realistic and narrative conventions in film and, in order to criticise the control function of language and the mass media, use the medium outside the borders set by the screen. In group events such as the Aktionskonzert für Al Hansen (1966) or the Zock-Fest (1967) literary figures, visual artists and underground film makers express their mistrust of prevailing forms of representation. The increasing artistic and political radicalness of the action Kunst und Revolution (1968) leads not only to a massive media smear campaign against those participating but also to their criminal prosecution.


International art developments such as Fluxus, Pop Art and Conceptual Art are contextualised in another part of the exhibition: exhibition architecture, designed by architects Kühn/Malvezzi, is a shelving system adapted from supermarket fittings containing works and documentation material that addresses issues of the modernistic oppositions of artwork and commodity, museum and department store, viewing art and acting as a consumer. Artists take on the role of entrepreneurs and offer their "products" for sale as in a supermarket. Exhibitions such as The American Supermarket (1964) or the Museum of Merchandise (1967) and projects such as Ben Vautier's Magasin, Claes Oldenburg's Store or George Maciunas' Fluxshop & Mailorder Warehouse quite openly imitate capitalist sales strategies.

Fluxus and Conceptual Art answered the commercialisation of the art business in the 1960s with increasing de-materialisation that found expression in increased performativity and theorising. In the exhibition Mail Art projects by On Kawara and Alighiero Boetti lead to Lecture-Performances by John Cage, Robert Morris, Allan Kaprow, and Henry Flynt. The written recording of an idea leads to the Instruction Pieces, the instructions of the Fluxus artists George Brecht, Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins and La Monte Young. They are in direct contact with the conceptual artists of the 1960s and the early 1970s and its representatives such as Mel Bochner, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Peter Hutchinson and Jean Le Gac. The role of the publication as an important medium of communication and distribution forms a further focal point of the exhibition. Valuable prints from the library of collector Wolfgang Hahn were able to be integrated into the exhibition thanks to the generous gift of Mrs. Hahn: beginning with Andy Warhol's Index-Book through to Seth Siegelaub's legendary conceptual art catalogue.

A multi-facetted personality, George Maciunas was active as graphic artist, photographer, publisher and organiser of the Fluxus movement. A special exhibition, "Maciunas' Learning Machines" is being presented within Focus 03 and introduces Maciunas as a chronicler who, from 1953 till 1973 wrote the so-called "Charts" or "Learning Machines". Taking into account (art)history but also socio-political aspects he drew diagrams in order to render interdisciplinary areas of knowledge visually experienceable.

Exhibition curators are: Achim Hochdörfer (Level 3), Matthias Michalka (Level 1), Susanne Neuburger (Level 3), and Astrit Schmidt-Burkhardt (Maciunas' Learning Machines).

Willem de Ridder, European Mail-Order Warehouse / Fluxshop, 1965, rekonstruiert von Jon Hendricks 1984, The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, Detroit, Fotograf Rick Gardner, © Willem de Ridder.