ACOUSTICS





Beuys gained an interest in alternative notions of acoustics, and alternative uses of musical instruments, particularly the piano, from Fluxus performances in which instruments were used in nonmusical ways, often destroying them or kicking them around. George Maciunas developed the Dada-inspired idea of concretism, from which Beuys spun off his own treatment of musical instruments. He used the piano as a metaphorical object in the works Infiltration-homogen for Grand Piano (1966) and Plight Element (1985). The grand piano, enclosed in felt in both works, represented something that had immense potential for sound (communication), but was muffled, silenced. This outwardly negative situation turns positive when one realizes that the piano (the human being) has the opportunity to turn inward and focus on internal energies, bringing about healing (creativity). Thus, the full title of the action, Infiltration-homogen for Grand Piano: the greatest contemporary composer is the thalidomide child, indicates the work is a locus for a meditation on the human condition, for the plight of thalidomide children, and for the potential for hope and regeneration that emerges from a period of suffering.

 

Beuys used sound and communication as both an element and a concept in many actions and objects in the 1960s, transferring acoustics into an anthropological and metaphysical realm. Two of his best-known are The Chief (1964), in which he spent nine hours wrapped in a large piece of felt, occasionally transmitting vocal sounds via a microphone, and How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965), in which he covered his head in honey and gold leaf and spent three hours explaining his art to a dead hare he held on his lap. The performance dealt with the differences between human and animal consciousness and abilities. Even though the hare is dead, it still has productive power. The hare, as an archetype, represented for Beuys a kind of spiritual transformation, demonstrated by its ability to burrow into the ground, incarnating itself into the Earth. The hare could physically achieve what human beings could only mentally achieve--by burrowing into the Earth (material) the hare penetrated the laws of the earth, sharpened its thinking, became transformed, and hence "revolutionary." This also could be an ideal model for the spiritual quest of human beings.


BACK TO MAIN MENU