Otto Mühl

Otto Mühl (center front) with Action Analytical commune members, Friedrichshof, Austria, 1974.

OTTO MÜHL WAS CALLED MANY THINGS IN HIS LIFE, but never a prophet. Yet his first manifesto, “The Blood Organ: The M-Apparatus,” written in 1962 when Mühl was in his late thirties, proved curiously farsighted, for he characterized himself as a synthesis “of two asocial types, the saint and the sexual murderer.” As if in a vision, he mapped out the entire range of images that dominate the discourse on him to this day: from the art therapist he was then and, in many minds, remained till the end, to the demon who cofounded Aktionismus (Actionism)—probably the most intense art movement of the century, which laid down the paradigms for all body art to come—by “killing the picture” and willfully snapping people’s minds.

Mühl had fought in World War II (his recollections of this time in his autobiography, Weg aus dem Sumpf [Way Out of the Mire, 1977], make for fascinating reading),

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