Nineteen sixty eight's Kunst und Revolution (Art and Revolution) has long been seen as an artistic and a political failure, marking the dissolution of the student left in Vienna and the premature end of so-called “Viennese Actionism.” This essay argues, however, that the failure of Kunst und Revolution was precisely the point: It exhibited a crisis of Austrian impotence that had long since been underway. Rather than considering the event to have been discredited for its ineffective political activism or misguided artistic “Actionism,” one is better off seeing it as an instance of what the author calls “in-action.” Through its failure to perform, Kunst und Revolution provoked the escalatory attentions of the police, the press, and the public. By attending to the mediatization of the event and the central role of the police, this essay argues that Kunst und Revolution, and in particular the performances of Günter Brus and Anna Brus, staged an institutional critique of Austria's most venerable national symbols: the university, the courts of justice, the tradition of the fine arts, and the Viennese family home.

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