My first contact with the Vienna Action Artists was held
through the DIAS, or Destruction In Art Symposium held in London during
the autumn of 1966. Gunter Brus, Otto Muehl and Hermann Nitsch, and also
Gustav Metzger, received a lot of publicity during this season. By art
critics and underground newspapers, of course. Why not? Jean Tinguely's
Homage to New York blew itself up at the Museum of Modern Art in 1960,
watched by a distinguished audience. Robert Rauschenberg had just spent
a month slowly erasing a Willem de Kooning drawing. First there were Constructivists,
then there were Destructionists. Yet even Time magazine was not
outraged. In the article they wrote about these events, the Wiener
Aktionismus, or Vienna Actionists, were grouped favorably within the
in vogue international Happenings movement. And it became well known among
certain circles that the then famous Pete Townsend, lead guitarist of
the pop group The Who, had seen the DIAS actions. He adapted them to his
guitar smashing performances that became a moving icon, the kinetic ideogram,
of a widespread artistic ferment against the frame, the gallery, the museum,
all received genres and the proscenium itself in its many manifestations.
Transformed into a swank craze, indeed, the influence of the Vienna school
became almost a leitmotiv of London's Swinging sixties. Destructive
art was featured again, and used as such, in the nightclub scene in Michelangelo
Antonioni's film Blow-Up. Jimi Hendrix showcased destruction art
in his Monterey Festival performance.
What could be better than this? He had it
made. But Otto wasn't content with being merely another recognized artistic
celebrity and fashionist, like David Hockney or Andy Warhol. As many people
In March 1967, at the dawn of what became
known as the summer of love, Otto Muehl published "ZOCK," one
of the most fanatical nihilist credos ever written. In this intense instance
Otto might be compared to Sergei Nechaev--Dostoyevsky's model for the
fictional Verkhovensky in The Possessed--and his very real Catechism
of the Revolutionist. Both manifestoes carried to an ultimate extreme
lewdness and severity, of mystical satire in praxis. In both there are
suggestions of older, shadowy millenarian uprisings, the writer depicting
himself as a complete immoralist, bound to commit "any crime, any
treachery, any baseness or deception" to create a New World order.
The stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, even Jesus and Judas are
taken not as rogue elements but implicitly as paradigms of brotherhood,
of fierce love. Both Nechaev and Muehl oppose history to project the future
of mankind into a primordial time when communication between heaven and
earth, gods and mortals, was not merely possible, but easy and within
the reach of all mankind. In both there is an unstated belief in redemption
through sin. Every acute and radical Utopianism that is taken seriously
tears open an abyss in which by inner necessity these antinomian tendencies
and libertarian moral conceptions gain strength.
Published as Direct Art no. 2 in
only 100 copies, ZOCK, an acronym for Zealous Organization of Candied
Knights, can be seen as a blueprint for all Otto Muehl's subsequent activities.
It is also a warning about the bloody realities of total revolution, a
cautionary tale for all those revolting curiosity seekers who in the late
sixties wanted revolution for the fun of it. In those days, who would
have thought that when someone wrote of the "perfumed garden"
they meant nothing more than the BBC. The uncool who when they spoke of
"dialectics of liberation" really meant a flat in Maida Vale.
That "kicking out the jams" turned into cranking out sci-fi
clichés on contract while struggling with the revolutionary masses
in Hollywood. Another's flirtation with "beatitude" embraced
all sorts of embezzlement and fraud, including police informing. This
office boy polished up the handle so carefully, now he's the ruler of
the . Queens biographee. Oh, the disappointments of our flowery generation.
But back to Direct Art. Back to ZOCK.
Tall and narrow, 4" x 11" inches,
this periodical consists of nine pages of single-spaced typewriter text
describing "orno super ZOCK, aspects of total revolution, dedicated
to GARTH... with extra meat power." The demon of the manifesto is
the metaphoric "wichtel," a German word signifying the goblin,
a spirit invoked by villains, the dreaded troll who lives under a bridge
and disturbs all natural flows, the dybbuniks who not knowing they
are dead get married, conduct business. For Otto Muehl, the wichtel
are everywhere, and ZOCK is a higher, desired state.
Pamphlets like this can be read as burlesque
sedition in the manner of fictions like Swift's A Modest Proposal.
Or Céline's Bagatelles pour un massacre. Kien's declaration-of-war
speech to his bookcases in Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fé. Or
even First Secretary Vladimir's hilarious lecture to Mr. Verloc in Conrad's
Secret Agent on the nature of anarchist outrage as totally absurd
destructive ferocity. Ergo: lashing out against the Victorian ideal of
progress and sacrosanct belief in Science by blowing-up the Greenwich
Meridian, a totally imaginary line. Except for one thing. Some authors
talk about it ... Nechaev, a hundred years ago, and Muehl, in our own
era, really did it. Wherever it, or should I say id, led
them. Compared to Nechaev and Muehl, campus heroes like Arthur Rimbaud
and Sid Vicious are mama's boys.
Otto Muehl's ZOCK certainly ranks alongside
Alex Trocchi's Invisible Insurrection, the Situationalists, and
Colonel Quaddafi's The Green Book as seriously major among the
sixties proclamations prophesying new metapaths in a post bi-polar world.
It is not obtainable any longer, and Otto Muehl seems to have been written
out of the Anglo/American radical soap opera. He is not mentioned in Bamn
[By Any Means Necessary]: Outlaw Manifestos and Ephemera 1965-71,
the Penguin book published a couple of years later, nor in the revised
reprint published by Autonmedia in 1999. Nothing in Amok Press' otherwise
exemplary Rants & Incendiary Tracts: Voices of Desperate
Illummination 1650 to Present (1988). And not one word in the monumental
study published by Harvard University Press, Lipstick Traces: A Secret
History of the Twentieth Century (1988).
Here is an excerpt from ZOCK, translated from the German, and available
in English for the first time on the web. It begins reasonably and agreeably
enough in a loony world-improving mode:
All civil servants are fired and absorbed
into the production process. The government is taken care of by machines.
There are no more police men, lawyers, judges, priests, teachers, postmen,
no more gas and electricity debt collectors, no more health service and
tax offices, no more old age pensioners and people living on the interest
of their capital. There is no property, no marriage and family, no religion.
In ZOCK there are only public means of transport. The vehicle of the wichtel,
the passenger car, no longer exists. ZOCK contains enough means of letting
off steam to compensate the wichtel for his much-loved car.
By the end of the first page we begin to
get indications of destructive ZOCK actions, those designed to upset willing
victims of the politically correct top ten. What then is required to attain
this proposed ZOCK state?
First, everything representing something
valuable in the eyes of a wichtel will be destroyed: old cities
like Florence, Rome, Venice, etc., favorite holiday landscapes will be
devastated, tourist attractions will be abolished, historical buildings
and monuments like temples (Acropolis), graves (Pyramids) and palaces
will be demolished.
And in a countercuff to the then nascent
A call to exterminate useless animals
on land, in the air and in the water. The zoos will be eaten. (Monkeys,
lions, tigers, zebras, bears, kangaroos.) Only useful animals will remain:
goat, sheep, cow, chicken, deer, pig, goose, duck, herring, whale, squid,
sardine, etc. Chop down all the forests. The planting of plastic forests.
Only plants still needed for nourishment will remain.
It goes on and on. So you can get a real
feeling of this manifesto, here are some selected chunks:
The right to suicide, the conscious uncompromising
realization of stepping out of society in public (on television) is an
inalienable fundamental right of ZOCK man.
Total chemical warfare against insects.
The exploration of space is postponed until
the last beetle is destroyed.
Safaris with bow and arrow to shoot down pregnant women and school children
in India (against overpopulation).
School children are allowed to be shot down
only on roads leading to schools.
The removal of the contrast between city
and country. All villages, cities and single houses will be eliminated.
Instead of these, gigantic tower blocks will be erected, evenly distributed
all over the country.
The family, as the germ seed of goblin-ness
(wichteltum), will be destroyed.
All religious communities will be dissolved.
Priests may be shot with a peashooter when they are performing their duties
during high holy days.
The management of justice, convictions and
the administration of sentences will be taken care of by appropriate machines
suited to that purpose.
does not know the death penalty.
Whoever transgresses ZOCK laws has to donate
Criminal elements will be housed as permanent
blood donors in blood donor colonies in Walsertal.
The blood silo and blood taping machines
in Walsertal become a favorite outing for the ZOCK people.
ZOCK exports blood plasma and frozen dead
bodies all over the world.
The permanent blood donors will be a comparatively
Like the children, the insane, and the
feeble elderly, they are excluded from ZOCK public life.
They are not allowed to leave Walsertal,
but otherwise they live in freedom, with good friends and entertainment.
Sexual intercourse is favored between people
who are good blood suppliers.
The insane also serve ZOCK as blood donors
as they are unable to do any useful work.
ZOCK will eliminate the race problem in
a very simple way:
1. A general ban on sexual intercourse between
people with the same skin color;
The ZOCK women will be sent on impregnation safaris to countries with
people with a different color of skin;
Only female tourists with another skin color may visit ZOCK. The skin
color of the future ZOCK people will be gray.
is freedom for orgies in ZOCK.
clubs are spread all over ZOCK.
Having secret orgies (intimate or so-called
wichtel orgies) is prohibited.
is a duty to report orgies.
orgy, without exception, will be recorded by television.
between criminals, the mentally deficient, the insane, old people, children,
goats, sheep and other useful animals.
Orgies between people of same sex, orgies
for members of the government and orgies between people of the same skin
This freedom to orgy will compensate all
wichtel for the loss of allotment gardens, cars, property, family,
religion, morals, forests and pastures, love of animals, mountains, traveling.
Standard rule for ZOCK artists:
nothing may be omitted.
The manipulation of reality must be kept
to a minimum.
ZOCK art propagates the soul of ZOCK.
ZOCK means non-stop holiday orgying.
ZOCK is a class apart. Exclusive.
ZOCK, masculine, exacting, elegant, international.
ZOCK: it is always somewhat expensive to
have special tastes.
ZOCK: enjoy the new age in style.
ZOCK, fresh breath, loved by all.
ZOCK follows strange paths.
ZOCK is in love with violet.
ZOCK's years of indiscretion.
Until now, all revolutions made the mistake
of not going far enough in radically destroying traditional structures.
They always let remnants of old institutions survive, and thus give reactionary
powers the possibility to heat-up the old sauce once again.
ZOCK will not make this mistake.
ZOCK will destroy all structures that are
older than one minute, without exception.
The civil servant machinery that until now
survived all revolutions and upheavals will be totally smashed, down to
the last oversleeve.
ZOCK also doesn't shrink from shitting
on every finger that taps a typewriter key.
The first years of ZOCK rule will be solely
devoted to the destruction of traditional values.
The first goal is to restore complete
ZOCK is not afraid of chaos; on the contrary,
it is possessed only by the fear that it will forget to destroy something,
Everything having to do with education and
upbringing will be destroyed. All schools and universities.
All books will be destroyed (the national
library will be blown up), all art works, all musical instruments.
All places of production will be destroyed.
Famine, which will be provoked by ZOCK's
destruction of agriculture, is a welcome event in realizing ZOCK's most
When famine has reached a certain extent,
ZOCK's slogan will be: Use other humans as food.
To break with the past, ZOCK will not only
ban writing, but also talking--until everyone has lost their own language.
Even communication with eyes and hands will be banned for a very long
time. All too easily a remnant of speech might be preserved. Deaf and
dumb people are a special danger to the ZOCK development because of their
sign language. The same applies to the blind with their system of writing.
On this ground, ZOCK will relinquish the
deaf and dumb, the hard of hearing and the blind for immediate consumption
when the famine has reached the right extent.
The old people and the insane, with their
inclination for the past, are a special problem. They too will be eaten,
if their meat isn't too tough.
The woman as guardian of the family and
tradition is ZOCK's number one enemy.
All women who have already born children,
will be beaten to death and eaten by ZOCK youth on the occasion of a gigantic
Mother's Day feast. Whoever gets a kick out of it, can use them sexually,
before or after they are beaten to death.
Mothers who have just given birth, will
be permanently put to sleep immediately afterwards.
On Father's Day, fathers may make sexual
use of their daughters and sons. Through these actions ZOCK will succeed
in wiping out the family as an element of State control.
World Animal Day: a call to sexual intercourse
with all animals.
Men and boys will leap upon goats, sheep,
cows, horses, dogs, cats, chicken, geese, ducks.
Women and girls will let themselves be leapt
upon by animals.
There is no essential distinction between
humans and animals.
He who wields power in ZOCK is in acute
danger of life.
In the beginning, the government will change
almost daily, then hourly, and afterwards continuously faster, and in
the end there will be no more government.
Because as soon as someone lifts up their
nose and wants to start to rule, they are shot down.
Everything that turns out to be inexpedient
will be radically wiped out.
Like certain people such as Albert Schweitzer,
Herbert Karajan, Franz Antel, Toni Sailer, etc.
Art that intends to bring mankind consolation
and beauty becomes a recommendation for murder.
The principle of practicality leads to an
annihilation of religion and priests and all "useless" people,
until the globe explodes and the earth ends.
So this writing is a hymn of praise, reinforced
with negative omens, on that which exists, insofar as it shows the total
revolution and its consequences.
An emphatic warning to all those who are
slow of learning.
No wonder. Otto Muehl and Gunter Brus have
been convicted of crimes in their native Austria, because of their Direct
Art body actions. To use the American term "transgressive" to
describe these events would be trivializing what happened. As is well
known, there was shitting, fucking, masturbating, hymn singing, pissing,
beatings, and mutilating animals and people on the stage of Auditorium
I at the University of Vienna. At the Art & Revolution performances,
Brus cut himself in the thigh with a razor, urinated into a glass and
drank it, rubbed himself with excrement, and began to masturbate while
singing the Austrian national anthem. By 1969, their colleague Rudolph
Schwarzkogler made his last ZOCK action by leaping to his death from a
fourth-story window while attempting to fly during an LSD trip. Otto Muehl
summed up this period as one of "boundless hate for the mayor of
Vienna." The Vienna Actionists fled into exile. And as the sixties
ended, Otto's book Mama & Papa was banned in Germany, when
nothing else was being banned for obscenity in that country.