Surprise! Hermann Nitsch Performance Using 500 Liters of Bull Blood Stirs Protest in Tasmania

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition against the ever-controversial 'Orgy Mystery Theater' series.

Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch is again at the center of controversy—this time in Tasmania. 150.Action, a three-hour performance by Nitsch that will use 500 liters of blood and a slaughtered bull, has caught the disapproving eye of the RSPCA and animal rights activists for how it “tap dances across the line” of what is the acceptable and humane treatment of animals.

Over 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for the performance to be canceled. “We are opposed to this event, which trivialises the slaughter of animals for human usage,” the petition reads, “and condemns a sentient being to death in the pursuit of artistic endeavours.”

The work, scheduled to premiere in Hobart as part of the Dark Mofo festival in June, organized by the Museum of Old and New Art, is part of Orgien Mysterien Theater (Orgy Mystery Theater), an ongoing series of performances by the Viennese Actionist that has consistently provoked outrage since its inception in the 1960s.

In it, performers are shrouded in white garb while bathing in blood and handling animal carcasses. But while the series is well-known, it seems that in recent years, mounting backlash against the performances is preventing Nitsch from showing the work without stirring controversy.

Hermann Nitsch. Image Courtesy the artist.

In 2015, Museo Jumex in Mexico City cancelled a scheduled performance, and in the same year, Italian animal rights activists protested Nitsch’s invitation to perform in Palermo.

The RSPCA in Tasmania does not necessarily oppose the slaughter of the bull for the work, as it will be done humanely and professionally, and not as part of the performance itself. The organization does, however, strongly criticize the seemingly indulgent use of its body after its death. “I think the difficulty we have is the respect shown to the animal with this action, that’s the challenge that we have with this particular artwork,” RSPCA Tasmania’s general manager, Peter West, told the Guardian.

“It’s clearly not respectful to the beast and even though it has been humanely and respectfully dispatched, what happens after that is anything but respectful,” West concluded.

Leigh Carmichael, Dark Mofo’s creative director, defended Nitsch’s work: “Firstly, and most importantly, there will not be a live animal slaughtered as part of any Dark Mofo performance,” he said. “Some artists use paint, he uses blood and meat.”

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