How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare A Spiritual Analysis

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How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare A Spiritual Analysis

When Joseph Beuys performed his piece How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare November 26 1965 at Galerie Schmela in Dsseldorf Germany he presented a new way of thinking about the structure and meaning of art Unlike traditional artists who practiced in painting drawing or sculpture Beuys practiced a then new media of art called Performance Art Like the name suggests performance artists did not make objects to be displayed instead they displayed themselves by creating live presentations1

In his performance Beuys makes his way around a small room while whispering inaudibly to a hare carcass which he carries in his arms Throughout the piece Beuys would have the hair burrow while holding its ears up with his teeth he would lie down in the middle of the floor and pose himself or the hare in different positions around the space The audience viewed the threehour long scene through a window of the gallery Felt was attached to Beuyss left shoe and steel to his right The sound of the steel hitting the floor was the only break in the silence of the piece Honey and gold leaf covered his head and face Around the room pictures hung on the walls and a dead fir tree laid on the ground When the three hours passed the audience was allowed into the gallery with Beuys sitting in a chair with the hare on his lap his back facing them see Figure 1

Every part of Beuyss performance held meaning both his actions and the specific items he chose The honey stood for life and the gold leaf stood for wealth Together they also created a shaman aura for Beuys which connected him to the spiritual The hare represented death and mortality The felt personified spiritual warmth and the steel stood for hard reason and a conductor for invisible energies The materials themselves were unorthodox and were used to challenge the conventions of art

With How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare Joseph Beuys revolutionized conceptual art Conceptual art markedly deemphasized or entirely eliminated a perceptual encounter with unique objects in favor of an engagement with ideas2 Beuys had a need to replace conventional art with a more spiritual and natural form of communication3 He created art that was supposed to be felt or intuited by a viewer rather than understood intellectually4

The concept of spirituality is the foremost subject of How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare Even though all the afore mentioned items have their own individual meanings they all contribute to the central demonstration of spiritual importance An article in Phaidon describes the ending of Beuyss performance as him protectively cradling the deceased hare in a manner akin to the Madonna in a piet5 This is a profound comparison The Madonna in a piet is one of the most produced images that we see in the history of art Before the sixteenth century the Madonna in a piet was seen more than an emoji is seen today It was the epitome of religion and devotion In turn comparing How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare to the Madonna in a piet alludes to the notion that Beuyss performance is also the picture of religion and devotion

The hare is the most significant aspect of Beuyss piece It is seen in many other artworks by Beuys For Beuys the hare was an integral part of the spiritual message According to him The hare has a strong affinity to women to birth and to menstruation and generally to chemical transformation of blood Thats what the hare demonstrates to us all when he hollows out his form the movement of incarnation The hare incarnates himself into the earth which is what we human beings can only radically achieve with our thinking he rubs pushes and digs himself into Materia earth finally penetrates hare its laws and through this work his thinking is sharpened then transformed and becomes revolutionary Even a dead animal preserves more powers of intuition than some human beings with their stubborn rationality Human thinking was capable of achieving so much but it could also be intellectuali

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