»We need the sharpest minds.« Joseph Beuys 1979c
Who was Joseph Beuys? What do our thoughts, our feelings and desires have to do with sculpture? Is art the only revolutionary force? Is the future a category of art? Are these even the questions we need to be asking? 100 years after the birth of Joseph Beuys, one of the most significant twentieth-century artists, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is rearticulating these questions so fundamental to both his art and thought.
The book begins with a critical interrogation of the history of the reception of Joseph Beuys conducted by the artistic directors of »beuys 2021. 100 years of joseph beuys«, Catherine Nichols and Eugen Blume. Focusing on key publications from the beginning of Beuys’s career to the present day that have documented and formed his practice over time, their unique and highly visual analysis offers an accessible insight into the problem with Beuys. They reflect on the ongoing construction and deconstruction of this equally contentious and captivating public figure, whose idiosyncratic, self-mythologizing, syncretic approach to history continues to polarize responses to the artist and his work even today. Their analysis is followed by a series of essays by renowned authors who reflect from different perspectives on the overall outcomes and contribution to scholarship emerging from North Rhine-Westphalia’s centenary programme.
The second section of the book examines the media response to »beuys 2021«. An overview essay explores the most recent reactions to the legacy and the treatment of Joseph Beuys, situating the current enquiry within the context of the artist’s overall reception. The essay is accompanied by selected newspaper articles offering an insight into palpably polarising impact of Beuys 100 years after his birth.
In the following section the book provides an overview of the extensive program of »beuys 2021. 100 years of joseph beuys«. Here the 32 events comprising the centenary, including exhibitions, performances, concerts, film screenings, lectures, labs, symposia and podcasts, are introduced in brief essays that contribute to the overall interrogation of what makes this artist as controversial as he is contemporary. They look at his ideas on democracy, ecology, education, capital and the possibility of a universal subject. Together they explore Beuys’s complex oeuvre, consider his international impact and evaluate the revolutionary potential of his thought.
The volume concludes with an imaginary conversation with Beuys on 15 issues of relevance to our times. Featuring original works by the award-winning, internationally renowned graphic designers cyan, Berlin, the dialogue brings together a multitude of voices from many different spheres, generations and cultures who enter into a richly associative, critical dialogue with the artist’s well-known aphorisms. Together they explore the genesis, viability and relevance of Beuys’s vision of a future based on the principles of art.
edited by eugen blume and catherine nichols
steidl, göttingen publishing house
cyan, berlin book design
16.5 × 22 cm
50 black-and-white, 170 colour images
four-colour process with four fluorescent colours
two different paper types, thread stitching
autumn 2021publication date
available in separate german and english editions