Jeans with holes cut in the front and back of the knees were used in Joseph Beuys’ performance Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, which was broadcast live from Paris on December 31, 1983. During the action Beuys stated that everyone should wear a pair “to fight against materialism and repression.” He was certainly referring to George Orwell’s bleak vision of the future in his novel 1984, but the jeans may also allude to anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner’s (1861-1925) designation of the knees as the area of the skeleton associated with the ability to see into the future. In this multiple, Beuys liberates our “eyes” by showing where to cut the holes in our pants.
This acquisition continues the Walker’s aim of acquiring works in depth by artists to whom the museum has a long-term commitment. The Orwell Leg–Trousers for the 21st Century joins a collection of more than 400 multiples by Beuys that the Walker acquired in 1992.