Joseph Beuys: The Free International University and Social Sculpture Now @ Barbican Centre (24 Sep 2009) Shelley Sacks and Wolfgang Zumdick in conversation.
'Human beings are able to create their own world' Beuys
After hearing Wolfgang Zumdick talk about Beuy's ideologies within his work I feel as though a layer has been lifted and I can truly start to understand the felt suits, blackboards covered in diagrams, fur, hares, fat and honey which are always present within his works.
The whole pretense of any action or sculpture Beuys has ever made has all come from one 'origin' his theory of evolution; The belief that humans can create their own world and every human is an artist. His blackboard drawings and lectures were all an aid to illustrate the diagram of his idea, of the evolution of 'Mensch' (Human-being).
Jospeh Beuys, Mensch 1972
The time that Beuys spent in the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, was working among philosophers, academics and fellow artists. It in turn inspired him to draw up an idea of the 'extended definition of art' through evolution, religion, humanism and social philosophy.
He believed that the earth was enveloped by a cosmic placenta (the cosmos) which feeds our creative energy like that of an aura. He believed that humans are on a long line which is hurtling towards death with the onset of atomic warfare and nuclear power which he understood to be the 20th century. Many scientists he admired which talked about the present and were influential to him are represented within his theory such as Newton, Kant, and Plato. But what Beuys wanted to express and produce through dialogue and his actions was the future sphere, after the 20th century and death. How do we imagine that? and he understood it was through art - if everyone was an artist and let themselves describe and express whatever jumped out to them in the natural world we would all be able to create our own worlds and create our own origins of perception so that we could see what's coming.
This idea was where the Free International University developed, to teach students in a university how to create widened consciousness: for example one of the lessons would be evolution and drawing - for each pupil to only draw when something in nature or their surroundings calls out to them.
The idea of consciousness and working on what each person has to say or can see, Beuys believed could only really be done through making art.
The use of the staff has always been prevalent within Beuys diagrams, actions and sculpture. He taught that every human had an invisible staff like object above them which reached out into nature and the cosmos, to gain inspiration and perception of what was around you, and its only through training yourself through your artwork that you can tap into this.
During the 70s and 80s he was loosely a member of the Fluxus and would create actions and entice debate and discussion wherever he would go. One of these actions involved him playing a piano in front of a crowd in Berlin, however, he was not happy with the sound so he chucked a bucket of chalk in the piano, but was still not happy, so began to throw honey and sand into the piano and ended up drilling holes into the side of it. This caused outrage in the audience but none the less he carried on... He then began heating up a vat of animal fat and covering the piano and audience members in it. One man in the crowd was outraged and punched Beuys in the face to which he retaliated by pulling out a toy of Jesus on the crucifix. Which is where this iconic image of Beuys came from:
Kukee, akopee - Nein!, 1964
The image shows Beuys reaching into the sky (cosmos) for inspiration like that of a staff or a tree and presenting in front of him Jesus on the cross (the crucifixion) where he believed the 20th century was headed- to be crucified.
Shelley Sacks (a researcher from Oxford Brookes University and one of Beuys students who attended his FIU workshops for a hundred days at Documenta 6, 1977) discussed Beuys idea of a Free University and his ideolgies behind this; that creating events, spaces, reflection and awareness would create dialogue that could benefit social problems. In turn a manifesto was created at Documenta 6 which was an evaluation of 100 days of dialogue about Germany's social, political and ecological situation. This then turn became a fundamental document for the German green party. Of whom Wolfgang Zumdick is now a member.
The Green party that Beuys developed has had a huge effect on German politics overturning a constitution in Bavaria and changing and contesting many of Germanys laws.
The talk ended with a discussion and a member of the audience (a landscape gardener) said something very touching that brought Beuys ideas together for me, that when she started a discussion with parents, teachers and a local community about the notion of 'play' and how to design play parks, it would always result in a violent debate about needles, welfare and safety. The talk would never go anywhere but if you actually asked the children what they wanted and tapped into their ideas and perception of play, then we could learn something. To use our organs of perception instead of confrontational learning and believing that children have minds to fill, instead to let them use their imagination and perception and let your perception give/take from the world. Let us see what they have to say. The gardener said that after learning from the children what their idea of play was and what jumped out to them in their natural surroundings, she ended up felling a group of trees and allowing the children to play among them and make their own park. To create their own SOCIAL SCULPTURE.
Saturday, 26 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Ole Hagen, Plenum 2009 Production Still
Open multiversity was a metaphysical evening of performances featuring: Jemima and Dolly Brown, Ole Hagen, Alicia Paz, Plastique Fantastique, Kit Poulson and Alex Baker.
Performed within the great Swendenborg hall it acted as an alternative to an academic symposium, with artists presenting screenings of new works, readings and seances.
(To accompany the current show on at Danielle Arnaud)
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Marcel (Hidden Reflection), 2009
Monday, 4 May 2009
William Hunt, Performance view 'Le Sang d'un poete' 2009. Photo: Mathieu Genon
Live performance of artist playing accordion and singing through a camera obscura.
William Hunt having just graduated from Goldsmiths, is already producing his second London solo show. It was a great opening night at IBID projects, somewhere which hasn't really been showing much the past year, it definately put on a great show.
Towards the back of the gallery stands an innocuous object made from metal and canvas, and fitted with electric lights. This obsolete device has been salvaged by Hunt and imbedded into the wall, concealing a hidden alcove in the next room. As you peer into the screen in the sculpture, the face of the artist miraculously appears. This camera obscura-esque sculpture blurrs the boundaries between that of a static 2d image or tv screen and that of a live apparition - allowing you the experience to view the artist 'for real'.
Hunts work works on the boundaries of sculpture, performance and sound - somthing which is of great interest in my current practice. I think the title of his 2008 performance best sums up his practice 'I Forgot myself, looking at you'
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
Directed by Robert Altman 1993.
This film is truly one of the best films I have seen for a long while, Robert Altman is a genius of American cinema and in Shortcuts he brings together his kaleidoscopic vision of Raymond Carvers stories. It is epic in both scale and duration being a hefty 3 hours long but completely worth every second and meticulously observed. The extraordinary cast ensemble include Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin, Robert Downey Jr, Tom Waits and Jennifer Jason-Leigh.
It follows the lives of many characters living in South California over the course of a few days. Some of them know each other, some don't, their paths cross as the film plays out, and some never meet each other. As the characters go about their lives, the perspective of the film is like a wandering observer's, I am not very well-versed in Altman's work but this seems to be a penchant for many of his films. It reminded me of the film Magnolia, in the way that characters have a butterfly effect and stories ripple into other ones, bringing all the characters together for a climatic end.
The acting is absolutely superb, especially Julianne Moore and Lily Tomlin, the cinematography is beautiful and depicts the american way of life and seediness as well as a complete demographic of american life.
The film captures the way life is full of accidents, happy ones as well as bad ones. it is a wonderful piece of cinema about the way people interact with one another without even knowing it.
Daniel Pasteiner The Fortress, 2008 Oil and Tyco track on MDF
Standpoint and curator Rod Barton collaborated in putting on this show by two young artists whom met whilst showing in New Contemporaries, who work between the boundaries of formalism and convention.
Abstraction and modernism can sound in painting as now boring, defunct terms, but Ryan and Pasteiner' intelligent approach to the hemispheres between two art worlds: Duchamps readymade and abstract/ cubist space work well together.
Brussel sprouts coasted in lacquer, scalectrix track, swirling mirror balls and yards of coloured fluorescent tubing makes this show an interlocking of different dimensions. The work considers: Geometry and media from the traditionally thought out, depth, colour and composition within modernist painting set against but also in harmony with the manifestation of translucent collage/ assemblages and light installations.
The two artists will be in conversation with Francesca Gavin 05.03.09 @ 7.15pm.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Showing at the BFI at the moment is a short video directed by Jane and Louise Wilson, about a film that never happened (planned and heavily researched by Kubrick, then spontaneously dropped) and a portrait of the leading artist Johanna ter Steege. It begins with images of Johanna taken by Stanley Kubrick - they are for the wardrobe shoot of The Aryan Papers. Johanna was to play the lead role of Tania , a compelling character. She is a Polish Jew trying to save herself and her family from the Nazis.
The amount of research overwhelmed Kubrick, in the end it left him depressed and for his own health he had to abandon the project. Maybe the story itslef was too cruel, and he in the end was unable to tell the story. Kubrick the famed perfectionist never felt he could justify the movie, or express the cruelty shown within that period.
A beautiful, still shot video which unearths repossessed histories within film, and expresses how even the greatest filmakers know that some works can never be realised.
Monday, 16 February 2009
say things that have not been said
hear things that have not been heard
see things that have not been seen
feel things that have not been felt
learn things that have not been taught
fight things that have not been fought
create things that will blow your fuckin' mind
This is going to be my mantra for the work I create this year.