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Text: Roksolana Chernoba
Photo: Roksolana Chernoba 

Hermann Nitsch is an Austrian artist who was the predecessor of most of today’s celebrated “avant-garde” performers, starting his “aktion” as early as in 1950’s with the concept of Orgies Mysteries Theater where animals are sacrificed on every major event and then the cast partakes in primeval feast. No wonder he is a major target of animal rights activists. When we dig deeper, we find the enormous feeling of sublimation of the guilt and pain experienced in his childhood under Hitler. What comes as tall as a bovine sacrifice comes out to be a kind of sublimation. Hermann Nitsch defines himself not as an artist but rather as a priest working with basics of all religions and searching for a new basis for the religious feeling in the contemporary world. There is a solid base for such a statement, in the history of European culture: it is strongly rooted in Ancient Greece, and it is there where theater is more of a religious activity than anything else.

I am very interested in pain, in cruelty. Our world is a tragic world. But I enjoy life. When I was young I was very much influenced by Nietzsche and the psychology, the philosophy of the Dionysian way of life. That interests me, and I show only what can be tragic. Those pain and tragedy elements are necessary for our being. It is also when you have to work very hard, it is also a kind of pain. Dead and tragic situations are necessary for the creation.

I’m not like Rousseau; I’m not against the civilization. I’m only against when sometimes the civilization becomes so important…But I’m very interested that we are one team, that we feel our roots, and this is also very important for the future. That we feel our world and our creation deeper. My work has a lot to do with the in-depth psychology. We have much more energies which we can use, and the civilization dismisses them. All those things you can see in my work – those depressed energies that do not want to come out.

There are so many lukewarm people around. They all want to have an intensive life, but they are not able to live intensively. They are looking for sensations. They want life to come out and give them more energies that they can use. We should use all our energies and bring them to life.

That has a lot to do with the Catharsis that brings out all those depressed or repressed energies. After the performance the actors have a feeling that it was the greatest experience of life, because they just don’t use that kind of energies every day. And I think it is much better when everyone is a “Godman” there and he likes it, than to make war. And I can say from my experience that this is a process of psychoanalysis, not spoken with words, but expressed on the level of our senses. People who have seen my films or have been in my theatre were much freer afterwards. They get this apprehension – that is very important to them. People need this. It’s good to use this therapy in my theatre, because there is no lie, everything is true for our senses: you can see it, you can smell it, you can taste it, and you can eat it.

I am very involved in all kinds of religions and mythologies, and it’s like a trip on the boat. If you use rituals you write the ethical agreement with the real nature. The energies are coming from our deepness, from our roots. So the rituals always have very important complex of all the gracious that hides in us. And I want to know myself and other selves better. And I don’t believe that later, everything is good. Look at the Greeks, at the History of Theater: it is a form of malady. And I am not certain at the moment of creation that I will definitely have a good outcome.


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