The performance or “action” begins with statements by Nitsch and ends with everything covered in blood. As a naked man sits on the ground with a pig carcass above his head, five musicians known as the Quintetto Nitsch play music beside a table filled with fresh produce and raw meats. On the other side of the room, the “cabinet of curiosities” holds items used in the performance and nostalgia of actions past.
This work was very intense. I was surprised that the most overwhelming aspect of this work for me was the smell. It was not the dead pig, the naked man, the endless amounts of blood, or the religious symbolism that provoked a reaction from me. No, it was the smell of the pig, raw meats, blood, and body odor combined with the perfume oils, flowers, and fruit that were so distinct and strong that I felt uneasy.
Which leads me to ask myself – Have I become so anesthetized that the imagery of the work doesn’t even bother me anymore? Was I more concerned with getting blood on my freshly dry-cleaned white coat that I didn’t let myself get lost in the tactile use of the blood? What would I have focused on if the smell had not been so pervasive?
All in all, regardless of my hangup with the smell, the work of Hermann Nitsch is powerful and attacks from all angles.