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NOVEMBER 7

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Since my misspent youth revolved around physics (don’t do it, kids—it’s the Big Lie), I wrote only one real term paper in college: “The Moral and Aesthetic Dilemmas of Mutilatory Body Art.” (It was back when “body art” often referred to actions involving alterations more invasive, but ironically less indelible, than tattoos.) Hovering seductively at the edges of my reading was the shadowy figure of a young Viennese. Rudolf Schwarzkogler was rumored to have died after chronicling the scrupulously incremental removal of his penis with a razor. This proved to be mere myth, a perversion of the artist’s actual death by perhaps intentional defenestration in 1969 at the age of 29. What is certain is that this affiliate of Viennese Actionism (a movement that gave rise to the notorious “Orgies-Mysteries Theatre” of Hermann Nitsch, in which naked young men were doused with animal blood and entrails in mock-religious rites) enacted a series of quasi-medical explorations of the body, which did not comprise actual violations of the flesh. Between February 1965 and early 1966, Schwarzkogler and several comrades (including favorite model Heinz Cibulka, pictured in Third Action) staged six private performances, known to the public only through photographs, 37 of which are displayed in the Hirshhorn’s Directions gallery from Nov. 7 to Jan. 20. The work should emerge as a record of a strange and poignant Freudian quest for Schwarzkogler’s estranged selfhood, dislocated when his father, a physician, killed himself after losing his legs near Stalingrad in 1943. Viennese curator Eva Badura-Triska will discuss the artist’s work, including early paintings and later drawings and texts at noon at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 8th & Independence Ave. SW. FREE. (202) 357-2700. (Glenn Dixon)