ART AND LIFE





Beuys' comment also aligned himself with a group of artists known as Fluxus. In making the statement "the silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated," Beuys rejected Duchamp's critique of Fluxus--that their ideas lacked ingenuity since he had anticipated them. He also rejected Duchamp's anti-art concept, or the notion that ordinary objects are elevated to the status of an art object simply by being deemed as such by an artist. Beuys did not believe in the elitist isolation of the art object from everyday life, saying, "It has become the territory of a few intellectuals, far from the life of people." He renounced the distinction of the category "aesthetic" by claiming "aesthetics is the human being in itself." In moving beyond this limitation, he hoped to apply the artistic principle of creativity directly to society.

 

 

"But if the concept of art becomes anthropological it is totalized and really does refer to human creativity, to human work and not simply the work of artists. Why anyway should the term art refer to the work of painters and sculptors? That is simply a restriction that never existed before."[14]

 

Beuys' art is always in some way directly or indirectly autobiographical. His early drawings reflect--are graphic compositions of--fragments of his past, both his personal past and his collective German past, in fairy tales, science, literature, philosophy, and art history. These fragments formed the metaphorical ground of his performance art. In his discovery of performance art, Beuys combined the theatrical elements of time and space with props and a directional score. From these actions new props, objects, and relics are born, and borne further, creating new fragments of Beuys' own art-historical mythology--his life's work. This cyclical system is at work on many levels, over and over, connecting Beuys' visual and performance art.

 

 

In his shift to actions, Beuys' own function as the artist as a medium of creativity also shifts--from guiding the hand that gives plastic form to thoughts and intuition through drawing and sculpture, he now assumes an active role in a new dimension as a performer-shaman. Layering and manipulating "fragments," Beuys acts out a ritual which simultaneously is the creation of a new work of art, and a new pedagogical model, a teaching-by-example of how to live.

 

Beuys' goal was not to create a parallel reality through theater--he sought to erase the line separating art and life in the tradition of the radical modernist gestures wrought by Marcel Duchamp and Bertold Brecht, whose evolutionary steps led to the erasure of this line. But Beuys's goal--his Gesamtkunstwerk ("total artwork")--is the revolutionary creation of a symbiotic whole--art as a model for life--life must be renewed by the lessons of art in order to be sustained.

BACK TO MAIN MENU