A beuy for all seasons: Joseph Beuys

A beuy for all seasons: Joseph Beuys

‘Every person is an artist – every action, a work of art’

photo: ute klophaus: Joseph Beuys at the exhibition beuys and his class, 1976, © bpk / foundation museum schloss moyland / loan from the ernst von siemens art foundation

‘Every person is an artist – every action, a work of art’

Deepening Creative Practice with organisations is a boundary transcending programme where the arts and social sciences weave together in five seasons – we are inviting you to join the next cohort, and the DCP community, in the spirit of Joseph Beuys’ work:

2021 is the centenary of the birth of Beuys, celebrated in the beuys 2021 project: Beuys has had a profound influence both artistically – in the field of post-war Western art and on artists today around the world – and socially.

In the 1970s, he developed a concept known as social sculpture: the theory that everyone is capable of making art and that art plays an integral role in shaping and transforming society. That creativity is latent in everyone. As a work of art, the social sculpture includes human activity that works towards forming and shaping an organisation, society or the environment through the interaction – the dynamic – between the creator and viewer.

“I’m certainly not an artist. Unless we all regard ourselves as artists, in which case count me in. Otherwise, no”  – Joseph Beuys

Alchemising the ordinary – he believed that art and the insights from it become a formative influence on a life and worked towards a place where life and art become one – he made himself a work of 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 was part of the international art movement Fluxus which continues today – Fluxus artists share some qualities including wit and fostering the child-like, though as a community they lack a single identity, meaning they encompass a wide variety of artists, including many women.

“Art is a kind of vehicle, you know. It’s a kind of making, spreading out ideas, … It spreads out the idea. …. I try also to work with images, with fantasy, with jokes, with humour. It accelerates the discussion of the problem of a new society.. ..so I work coming from the idea of art as the most important means to transform the society” – Joseph Beuys

Beuys’s work was hugely influenced by Nietzsche’s ideas of the Great Reason of the Body and the Guideline of the Body. Beuys transcended mind-body dualism and believed in the embodiment of the mind: the psychophysical self. He thought of the human subject as being generated by performance: through action and interaction, producing another state of human consciousness. Discussing this, a paper from the Tate Gallery.

He was a practitioner of happenings and performance art plus painting, sculpture, graphic art and installation. However, he was not an elite artist and was passionately involved in organisational activities.  He was committed to thinking about society post-war, including anti-nuclear and ecological concerns – indeed, he was part of the founding of the German Green Party.

“Creativity is not limited to people practising one of the traditional forms of art, and even in the case of artists, creativity is not confined to the exercise of their art. Each one of us has a creative potential, which is hidden by competitiveness and success- aggression” – Joseph Beuys

In 1982, he created a work for Documenta 7: a heap of basalt stones which, from above, formed a large arrow pointing towards an oak tree he had planted. He specified that the stones should only be moved if a new oak tree was included and subsequently a forest of 7,000 oaks have been planted in Germany, illustrating social sculpture as interdisciplinary and participatory.

“To recognise, explore and develop this potential is the task of the School. Creation – whether it be a painting, sculpture, symphony or novel – involves not merely talent, intuition, powers of imagination and application, but also the ability to shape material that could be expanded to other socially relevant spheres”  – Joseph Beuys

Our ‘School’ – the Deepening Creative Practice with organisations programme is a place where you can explore, with others, how to apply your latent (or not so latent) creativity in your organisation, group or society-in-a-pandemic, be you a concerned citizen, passionate learner, freedom fighter, curious ecologist, bored out-of-the-box agent of life and wellbeing, artistic practitioner, artist-academic, and/or working artist etc.

Rachel Kelly
Faculty, Deepening Creative Practice

For times, places and the fee here is the brochure and/or if you would like a chat with one of the programme Directors, Juliet Scott or Heather Stradling, about what this programme could do for you, please email reception@tavinstitute.org

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