My life in art: How Joseph Beuys convinced me of the power of conceptual art
Beuys’s strange work changes the status quo into a world where facts and fiction are indistinguishable

Will Gompertz,
Thursday 5 March 2009 12.10 GMT

Facts are tedious. People who put great store by them even more so. Who wants to be stuck with the club bore or local know-it-all? Yet last week the country went weak at the knees before members of Oxford University’s Corpus Christi quiz team, winners (and now, loser) of a TV panel show.

Why? Just because they were able to chime back some speedy answers to some fairly arcane questions. Now they are being told they are special. They are not. Special people don’t deal with facts; they deal with the unknown and the unknowable. Special people like to make things up.

Shakespeare made up over 3000 words. Einstein’s theories started out as ideas. Freud thought our dreams were of vital importance. But when it comes to a total disregard for facts, nobody quite tops Joseph Beuys, the very special 20th-century German artist. For instance, much of Beuys’s artistic output is based on one extremely tall story. When he was rumbled in the 1980s, having propagated his myth for over 30 years, nobody really minded – it simply became part of his oeuvre as an artist.

The first time I encountered an art work by Joseph Beuys was at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Up until that point I had been on the aggressive side of sceptical about conceptual art. That’s not to say I didn’t admire Marcel Duchamp – I did. I just never thought he was a brilliant visual artist – for me, he was more a formidable philosopher and thinker. Duchamp changed what art was and could be, simply through the power of his intellect and personality. That’s an extraordinary achievement. His central argument was that art is anything an artist says it is: a urinal, a bottle rack, even an action – any of these is art as long as they are presented as such by an artist. His proposition was that art should not be judged by the quality of the craftsmanship, but by the quality of the idea – the concept.

…Beuys was clearly influenced by Duchamp, but he was also infuriated by him. In 1964, he performed one of his “Actions” (a performance piece in which Beuys “acts”) called The Silence of Marcel Duchamp is Overrated. In it he criticised Duchamp’s decision to withdraw from the art scene in order to play chess – Beuys saw it as a dereliction of dutybecause he really did believe the only thing that could save the world was art. To achieve his aims he turned himself into a one-man-brand. With his signature hat (made of felt of course) and fishing jacket, Beuys ensured he was instantly recognisable. In 1965 he made How To Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare where he wandered around his own exhibition whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the eponymous dead hare. Later, in a work called I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), he imprisoned himself for a week with only a coyote for company.

Here is the full article.

Posted by Picasa
Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
Tags: ,