Interview with Hermann Nitsch (10 October 2017)

Interview with Hermann Nitsch

I met Hermann Nitsch on October 10th2017 in Naples at the Hermann Nitsch Museum ( Nitsch was in Naples for the opening of the second year of Casa Morra, a living museum and archival space founded by Giuseppe Morra in 2016. In order to house the vast Morra Collection, the Fondazione Morra is currently renovating a 4,200m2complex, the „Palazzo Ayerbo D’Aragona Cassano“. Within this spacial frame, on October 8th2017, in one of the courtyards of the Palazzo, Hermann Nitsch presented a „Lehraktion„, a theoretical action on the basic tenets of his sensorial and ecstatic theater.

My questions to Hermann Nitsch focus primarily on the concept of form, which is central to the practice of the artist and can thus be employed to grasp his idea of a fusion between art and life as well as the relationship he establishes, in his actions and in his orgies-mysteries-theatre, between the moment of excess and its aesthetic containment.

Within the topic of form, here understood as a device to decipher crucial moments in Nitsch’s work, my questions also explore the function he assigns to the documentation and its different means. Particular attention has been devoted to the the role and status of the relics he assembles from the material remains of his actions and theatre. The dialogue was also an opportunity to briefly discover to which authors and artists he felt most connected during the early phases of his action and performance practice.

I would like to warmly thank the Morra Foundation, in particular Giuseppe Morra and Teresa Carnevale, and the Atelier Hermann Nitsch, in particular Martha Schildorfer, for the essential support they gave me in order to carry out this interview.

Between Evidence and Representation

Project acronym: HiPArtDoc

Project ID: 747881

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie project „Between Evidence and Representation: History of Performance Art Documentation from 1970 to 1977” introduces a new historiographical approach that accounts for the dynamic development of performance art and its theories through the history of performance documentation. Focussing on the role of performance documentation in the conservation and presentation of performance-based art from 1970 to 1977, “Between Evidence and Representation” will examine the different strategies undertaken to provide duration and mediated access to definitionally ephemeral and immaterial events. Through the scrutiny of performance documentation and the variations within its identity as both artwork and document, the project introduces an innovative methodological viewpoint that accounts for the process of containment of performance within the traditional framework of visual arts. Goal of the research is to show how this process actively shaped the history of performance art in the early 1970s, filling a gap in the historiography of performance art and performance documentation.

Tancredi Gusman is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Institute of Theatre Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2016 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Università degli Studi di Milano for the EU-Cooperation Project: Senses: the Sensory Theatre. New Transnational Strategies for Theatre Audience Building, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme. Within this framework he was also responsible for the TEMPO Observation Centre. He studied Philosophy at the Università di Pavia and in 2012 he obtained his Ph.D in Theatre History Studies at the Università di Napoli “L’Orientale” with a Dissertation on theatre criticism in Germany between the 19th and the 20th century. He is translator of the Italian edition (2014) of Erika Fischer-Lichte’s Ästhetik des Performativen and he recently published the monograph: L’arpa e la fionda. Kerr, Ihering e la critica teatrale tedesca tra fine Ottocento e il nazionalsocialismo (2016) [The Harp and the Sling. Kerr, Ihering, and the German Theatre Criticism from the End of Nineteenth Century to National Socialism]. Between 2013 and 2015 Tancredi worked for Theater Neumarkt in Zurich.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 747881.