Saturday, January 29, 2011

Everyone is an Artist

Joseph Beuys planting one of 7000 Oaks.
A 4 foot high basalt stone was positioned next
to each tree to mirror the constantly changing
relationship between the tree and the stone.
Photos are posted to flickr showing their current state.

Nazi war trauma and abandoned plans to study medicine lead Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) to the Dusseldorf Academy of Art to pursue sculpture. He eventually gave up his early aspirations to emulate the work of British sculptor Henry Moore and created actions, multiples and installations instead. Through these works, he called for political reform and worked to engage the media and the public. Though some may perceive his art works (made of tallow, felt, honey and gold among other substances) as hard to "get", Beuys worked to draw in everyday people in hopes of breaking down boundries between art and life. Often associated with Fluxus, Beuys publicly denounced the movement. His works were his alone. His sculptures ran the gamut froms sweeping Karl-Marx-Platz in West Berlin on May Day 1972 to cooperating with the Guggenheim to install a major exhibition of his sculptures (as documented in John Halpern's Transformer video) to co-founding the Green Party to planting 7000 oak trees (7000 Eichen, 1982-7) to singing, with rock star swagger, his song Sonne Statt Reagan attacking American president Ronald Reagan's arms policy. Since his death, the faithful propagate his message via YouTube videos and a Museum Schloss Moyland which holds his early works. Contemporary artists and institutions also seem to be embracing the sorts of gestures that Beuys injected into the art discourse. Rirkrit Tiravanja prepared and served vegetarian curry daily to gallery-goes at David Zwiner in 2007) and part of his Untitled 1992 (Free) piece elevating cooking and eating to art.  Tino Sehgal made walking and engaging in conversation part of his art in This Progress staged in the empty Guggenheim in 2010 making human experience and thoughts a material for art.
Every sphere of human activity, even peeling a potato can be a work of art as long as it is a conscious act -- Joseph Beuys

Beuys at the peak of his career from a 1987 BBC documentary