the transvestism of objects* (after Rudolf Schwarzkogler)
Originally featured on Violet Strays, March 30 - April 5, 2012: 2 videos using egg whites, nail polish, trout, potted flowers, blue ink (adapted from an excerpt of Rudof Schwarzkogler's "Wedding" Action)
Also, what I wanted to say today but never got around to was that in getting into Schwarzkogler I'm enjoying other, more subtler aspects of performative interactions with bodies. In practice I clearly don't excel at these subtle kinds of interactions, nor in moderation, which is perhaps why I'm fascinated by Schwarzkogler's self-proclaimed Apollonian approach to action. As a child I constantly suffered all kinds of diets and regimens, excesses and deprivations. I think only lately I've admitted this may be the root of a lot of my interests: hysteria, religious ecstasy, syphilis & genius, food.
The Vienna Actionists are good at language + the body. Their writings are sometimes similar to conceptual or Fluxus texts, but of course more garishly about physical theater. They call to mind Sade. But Schwarzkogler is such the opposite of Sade, so not French. He's so regulated, maddeningly gentle, careful. He loves real bodies in a way Sade, who was methodical but not caring, never did.
Schwarzkogler is wonderful because of the delicately articulate, transformative nature of his actions. His earlier writings are influenced by the blunt, clichéd, orgiastic spectacles of Muehl et al, but eventually extended (or descended) to a fantastic system of dietary regimens and other hypothetical, ascetic practices. These ritualized regimens incorporated confounding things (eating "meat from the right side of animals" "meat from male animals" (virility?) "syllables" "diagrams" "smells / flowers / clothes / jewels" or alternating foot baths, sweating, ritual washing) purification, ingestion, purging, lots of fish and vinegar.
(Sade also prescribed dietary regimens to keep the consistency and regularity of shit just right so it served his sexual needs. Schwarzkogler wants imaginary purification through diet, Sade to keep the machine running.)
Schwarzkogler labors under the lightness of his poetic lists and directions. Lots of the texts are fantastical, hardly practical to carry out. Sade's was all theoretical language. A body could never sustain the duress of his language; text is thin and….his bodies were thin, nothing but words, bodies spun from the sugar of words. Theoretical word-bodies that could take infinite beatings and molesting then pop right back up and discuss philosophy or God ad nauseam. (An ideal body.) The actionists worked on very real bodies; still this was realized through language, but a different language than Sade's. Schwarzkogler's language (and that of the writings of the actionists in general) is an act of intercession: through the effort of the word, transubstantiation of material occurs. Also a sort of reverse transubstantiation. (It works both ways.) In the actions we witness the banal become glorified (the bread becomes an aesthetic object beyond its physical form and function, the fish becomes a site of burial for blossoms, a voodoo ceremony, a host). By the same gesture (the same action) the glorification of the body can be undone: by means of slight gestures and alchemical interventions, the body becomes bread; exhausted, it undoes itself to baser, banal, asexual materials: sugar crystals, pulverized flour, vinegar, wine, liquified chemicals, pure color....
Why is Schwarzkogler fascinated by the color blue? "Images of a cold bluish-emerald light combined with a cruel, dazzling metallic brightness were the expression of his Apollonian goals.” (Said Hermann Nitsch.)
Makes me as sentimental as a dog in moonlight. (Said Musil, but I'm stealing it.)
In 1965 Rudolf Schwarzkogler performed "Wedding" in Cibulka's Flat, Kaiserstrasse, Vienna. It calls for a sequence of actions:
The following items have been placed on the white-covered table: a black mirror with fish, a knife and a pair of scissors, glasses containing red, blue, yellow and white chemicals
glasses containing blue paint
a yellow bath-sponge
a plate with some pears
two white-painted flowering plants with pink blossoms
The fish are pricked with the knife and cut open using the scissors.
A flower-pot is smashed with a hammer and the earth struck from the roots.
Two sliced-open fish are filled with blossoms….
*this phrase comes from Severo Sarduy