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One of Joseph Beuys' fundamental messages, delivered again and again in lectures, interviews, and artworks, was that human beings can and must learn to be creative in many different ways. His famous slogan "Everyone is an artist" was not meant to suggest that all people should or could be creators of traditional artworks. Rather, he meant that we should not see creativity as the special realm of artists, but that everyone should apply creative thinking in their own area of specialization--whether it be law, agriculture, physics, education, homemaking, or the fine arts.

Beuys imagined that an expanded application of human creativity--and the broader definition of "art" that would follow--would result in something he called "social sculpture." While the term encompassed many things for Beuys, it might broadly be defined as a conscious act of shaping, of bringing some aspect of the environment--whether the political system, the economy, or a classroom--from a chaotic state into a state of form, or structure. Social sculpture should be accomplished cooperatively, creatively, and across disciplines (he often cited the example of the beehive as an ideal working model). For Beuys, the need to change, or literally to re-form, was urgent. "All around us," he said, "the fundamentals of life are crying out to be shaped, or created."

The slogans "Art = Capital" or "Creativity = Capital," which Beuys often used in his artworks, could be understood as shorthand notations of his ideas, and suggest that creativity and art are the new currency for the transformation of society that he envisioned. The multiple La rivoluzione siamo Noi (1972), "We are the revolution," recalls Beuys' proclamation that "Art is the only revolutionary force." In this work, the artist seems to stride boldly into the future, urging us to accompany him on his way to the revolution.

The term "Eurasia" appears often in the titles of Beuys' works. The word is a geographical designation for the land mass that has been separated, in modern times, into Europe and Asia. Beuys used it to refer to a state of spiritual integration between "Western Man" and "Eastern Man," which represented for him the extremes of analytic thought and intuitive thought. He drew many of his ideas from the writings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), founder of anthroposophy, who wrote that Western Man could only contribute to the progress of humanity when he gave up his dependence on "proofs" in favor of "the unfathomable dreams of truth."

Perhaps to assist Western Man in his quest, Beuys created Intuition (1968), a simple wooden box with the title and a double arrow inscribed inside in pencil. The box is the kind of rigid, right-angled space that Beuys often equated with analysis or logic; its inscription might be read as a recipe or remedy for correcting the imbalance (as in "fill to here with intuition"). Significantly, the multiple was issued as an unlimited edition, suggesting that everyone has the ability, if they choose, to fill the prescription.

  -Joan Rothfuss, Walker Art Center curator


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Haks, Frans. "Interview with Joseph Beuys." In Joseph Beuys: Diverging Critiques. Liverpool: Tate Gallery Liverpool and Liverpool University Press, 1995.

Harlan, Volker, Rainer Rappmann, and Peter Schata. Soziale Plastik: Materialen zu Joseph Beuys. Achberg: Achberger Verlag, 1976.

Tisdall, Caroline. Joseph Beuys . New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1979.