Weekly Update 2-Gunter Brus at Slought

Gunter Brus
Günter Brus, Self-painting/mutilation, 1965

Want a little blood with your art? Thirty years before Reservoir Dogs brought a scene of torture before the public and called it art, performance artist Günter Brus dreamed a cinematic torture dream and perpetrated it—on himself. Using his naked body as canvas, Brus, a founding member of the radical Viennese actionist movement, took a razor and cut himself—in front of a live audience with a film crew to recording it for posterity. Brus slashed his head, hands, arms and legs, all in a shamanist-cum-art demonstration that was meant to wake the folk of Vienna from their slumber and expiate the collective guilt they bore for the sins of World War II. The artist performed his actions several times (he also relieved himself publicly and poured paint over his body), and was jailed for six months by constables who weren’t amused. Happily Brus is no longer a cutter. Major museums own his drawings and artist’s books. So now, perfectly timed for the season of witches and grotesques, Slought Foundation brings us Brus’ wrenching body art in photos and video documentation. Brus meant to horrify, and he does. But like that scene in Reservoir Dogs, this is one bit of art history I wouldn’t mind forgetting.

“Primal Secretions: A Günter Brus Retrospective”
Through Dec. 23. $2. Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut St. 215.222.9050.