Rudolf Schwarzkogler (13 November 1940, Vienna – 20 June 1969, Vienna) was an Austrian performance artist closely associated with the Viennese Actionism group that included artists Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, and Hermann Nitsch.
He is best known today for photographs depicting his series of closely controlled “Aktionen” featuring such iconography as a dead fish, a dead chicken, bare light bulbs, colored liquids, bound objects, and a man wrapped in gauze. The enduring themes of Schwarzkogler’s works involved experience of pain and mutilation, often in an incongruous clinical context, such as 3rd Aktion (1965) in which a patient’s head swathed in bandages is being pierced by what appears to be a corkscrew, producing a bloodstain under the bandages. They reflect a message of despair at the disappointments and hurtfulness of the world.
Rudolf Schwarzkogler, 1st action “Hochzeit” (Wedding), (1965)
Schwarzkogler usually orchestrated his “actions” specifically for the camera. In contrast, Wedding took place before invited guests and was conceived as an “action painting”. As in all of his imagery, the complex and ambiguous language appearing in Schwarzkogler’s highly aestheticized photographs communicates an uneasy disjunction of cold formalism with physical and emotional distress.