Beginning in the 1960s, Joseph Beuys developed new modes of thought that, in their complexity, continue to be relevant today. He achieved universal fame with his expanded definition of art and the concept of social sculpture. Art – according to Beuys' guiding principle – is meant to assert itself on the social, political, intellectual, and scientific level and thus become an integral part of our mindset and actions. On the centenary of the exceptional artist's birth, his work is more relevant than ever.
The presentation at the Belvedere 21 also revolves around the concepts of thinking, acting, and mediating: While the main work, Honey Pump at the Workplace, stands as a symbolic representation of Joseph Beuys' creed that societal transformation can be achieved through art, Stag Monuments seemingly marks the new beginning of a shattered society. In addition, the exhibition also embraces works and documentation of Beuys' work in Vienna. Beuys took part in exhibitions, actions, and lectures in the city – mainly the Galerie nächst St. Stephan. He developed for this gallery, among other things, the environment Basisraum Nasse Wäsche (literally, Basic Room Wet Laundry). Collaborating with Oswald Oberhuber and the University of Applied Arts – where he taught as a guest lecturer in 1980 – Beuys orchestrated the planting of trees for his global action 7000 Oaks in 1983. In the exhibition, we find the sculptural as a vestige of the action, in form of a documentary or as a “multiple.” The performance Eurasienstab 82 min fluxorum organum, which premiered in Vienna in 1967; the action How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare; and the long-running performance I Like America and America Likes Me convey the spirit of that time.
In his broad oeuvre, Joseph Beuys extensively examines topics of humanism, social philosophy, and anthroposophy. Especially these times of Covid-19, questions concerning the sensible use of resources have become acutely relevant. How can a community define itself outside of maximizing production, oversupply, and false notions of freedom? The work of Joseph Beuys offers food for thought on how to tackle the current challenges in the fields of art and cultural economy.
Curated by Harald Krejci.