In 1942, after the murder of his father by the Nazis, Spoerri emigrated to Switzerland with his family. There he embarked on a career in theatre, dance and literature, disciplines that would influence his art practice throughout his life. Only in 1959 did he start working as a visual artist, beginning with Autothéâtre, a work he executed in conjunction with Yves Tinguely. In this installation/happening, viewers were also actors. This success of his collaboration with Tinguely enabled Spoerri to settle in Paris, where he frequented the circle of the Nouveaux Réalistes.
In the 1980s, Spoerri began a series of works that took the human head as its main motif. The garrotte (or “garrot,” as it is also called) was a mediaeval torture instrument, an iron collar tightened by means of a screw and used to strangle prisoners condemned to death. Its most widespread use occurred in Spain, where it was employed as late as 1974! Here the garrotte is mounted on a butter churn that serves as a pedestal. A hat-maker’s head atop a post is attacked by various instruments. It extends toward the back in the shape of a dense tree branch that resembles a system of veins and evokes a spurt of blood.