Jasmijn Obispo

Viennese Actionism meets political correctness

Jordan McKenzie's "Viennese Actionism in a Gallery Cupboard"

Jordan McKenzie’s piece “Viennese Actionism in Gallery Cupboard” is a humorous parody of Viennese Actionism. Mostly, I wouldn’t associate the shocking works of the viennese actionists with laughter. McKenzie, however, has managed to conjure up the movement in a playful manner.


Viennese Actionism in a Gallery Cupboard - Wins Gallery 2014, London Shahin Shahablou, Jordan McKenzie

Why post about this for the secretopia project? It seems that this artist’s piece, unlike Hermann Nitsch’s performances, did not actually feature any bodily fluids but instead, symbols suggestive of them. Symbols that take form in this piece thanks to its alluding to this movement of the 1960s and 70s. The absence of actual bodily fluids makes the work an even more poignant commentary on the overprotectiveness of our society and its emphasis on political correctness.

McKenzie chose to make this piece as a result of extensive Health and Safety rules at the gallery he was invited by (such as not being able to mark the walls, no nudity etc.). He performed the piece in the gallery cupboard. This meant gallery visitors were entirely unaware of what was happening right next to them. I would not view it has having subversive power in the same manner as the works of actionists such as Nitsch, Otto Meuhl, and G:unter Brus. But maybe that’s not the point. The performance, its red paint, the physical restrictions and spacial confinement, visually alludes to the 1960s and 70s movement without literally replicating it. The nature of the work simultaneously making it an entertaining middle finger to the authorities dictating gallery etiquette and commentary on the significance of political correctness. 


Viennese Actionism in a Gallery Cupboard (2014) - Chariot Gay Sauna, Shoreditch Jordan McKenzie , Shahin Shahablou


Viennese Actionism in a Gallery Cupboard (2014) - Wins Gallery, London Jordan McKenzie


Viennese Actionism in a Gallery Cupboard (2014) - Winns Gallery, London Jordan McKenzie , Shahin Shahablou

For some more info on Vienese actionism see an article about Hermann Nitsch’s performance at Incubate in Tilburg.