Quick Film Guide: 10/65: Self-Mutilation (Kurt Kren, 1965)

10/65: Selbstverstümmelung
Directed by: Kurt Kren
Starring: Günter Brus

Kurt Kren is an Austrian filmmaker who was part of the Viennese Actionism. Simply put, this was a group of Austrian artists active in the ’60s in developing staged, avant-garde performances before “performance art” became a thing. Kren’s films from this time usually depict such staged actions. They are very graphic and fetishistic, in the Actionist vein, and his most famous works are constructed out of the splicing together of shots often lasting no longer than very few frames each.

The theme of Self-Mutilation (also referred to as Self-Destruction) is self-explanatory. Kren’s 10th film of 1965 depicts a man covered in white plaster and dough inflicting pain or attempting to operate on himself. The whole thing is very graphic and deeply unpleasant to watch. That, of course, is the intention; to shock the viewer and challenge perceptions.

Kren’s film is actually a document of a performance art piece by Günter Brus who was one of the founders of the Viennese Actionism and one of its most famous exponents. Brus’ art was intentionally aggressive and defined by a disregard of conventions and taboos, often involving blood, shit and piss. The intent was always to shock the viewer. One of his main objectives was to reveal the still fascist essence of Austria.

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