Günter Brus, Artist Who Shocked Postwar Austria, Dies at 85

Günter Brus, a founder of the radical art movement known as Viennese Actionism, who courted outrage and arrest in the 1960s by using his body — and bodily effluvia — to shatter the bourgeois civility of a country haunted by its Nazi past, died on Feb. 10 in Graz, Austria. He was 85.

His death was announced in a statement by Kunsthaus Bregenz, an art museum in Bregenz, Austria, that is currently hosting an exhibition by Mr. Brus. The museum did not say where he died or cite the cause.

The weight of his nation’s history bore heavily on Mr. Brus, who wasborn in the village of Ardning in 1938, the year of the Anschluss, the annexation of the country by Adolf Hitler, a native of Austria, into the Nazi Reich.

Over a six-decade career, he amassed a vast archive of work as a painter, graphic artist, experimental filmmaker and poet. Even so, he cemented his fame — and infamy — with the Actionists, a performance art collective that he formed in the early 1960s with the artists Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Otto Muehl, all of whom were committed to creating art that resisted commodification, instead using their bodies, in all their earthiness, as canvases for subversive art.

Mr. Brus (seated in front) and his fellow Actionists in “A Happening by Otto Muehl and Günter Brus,” staged in Vienna in 1967.Credit…Imagno/Getty Images

In a set of performances in 1965, titled “Selbstverstümmelung” (“Self-Mutilation”), Mr. Brus lay on a white sheet on the floor, his body covered in a gooey plaster. Writhing in agony, he acted out various acts of self-defilement involving several implements including a knife, razor blades and a corkscrew.

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