Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys developed a new concept of art as Social Sculpture in postwar Germany after the long period of repression and lethargy His theory advocated that every person in every situation has the ability to reorganise society and this essay discusses how he sought to realise these ideas within his own practice

Beuys 19211986 is one of the most prominent and influential German artists to emerge after World War II As well as an artist he was a teacher and activist and his theory on the ability of art to change the dynamics of society has reverberated across a generation of artists Electronic Arts Intermix 1997 Beuys along with other founding members of the Fluxus movement helped to reinvigorate a prosperous Avantgarde after the long episode of Nazi oppression His work was highly experimental and always contentious layered with intricate meaning and symbolism Moma nd Throughout his career he produced thousands of conceptual works drawings installations objects performances and lectures

Maturing as an artist during the Fluxus movement this encouraged Beuys to create progressively more antiestablishment and eccentric worksTurner 2001 The Fluxus was an international movement which began in the early sixties and continued to thrive throughout the 1960s and 1970s It was distinguished by a strong Dadaist approach and encouraged artistic experimentation intertwined with social and political activism that rejoiced in revolutionary change Delahunt 1996The Fluxus movement also centres on the absolute connection between art and life Durini 1997 p 26 a theme which was central to Beuys artistic practice

It was during the war that Joseph Beuys decided to dedicate himself to art Beuys entered the Dusseldorf Academy at the conclusion of the war It was during his time at the Academy that he began to query academic limitations and sought to further his artistic capabilities and understanding of art through his subject matter sculptural techniques and the use of non conventional materials

A major turning point for Beuys came during the mid 1950s when he suffered from a severe bout of depression which lasted for several years He surfaced from this period with a renewed sense of purpose and direction Beuys states This was the stage at which I began systematic work on certain basic principles Walker Art Centre nd These principles were to later expand into his Theory of Social Sculpture In addition to his depression Beuys also reportedly suffered from several injuries which he sustained during the five years he served in the war It is speculated that due to this suffering the theme of injury and healing are everpresent throughout his work As a survivor of World War II Beuys saw Western society as highly traumatised psychic social political and ecological and he believed that art was a means of mending this suffering Walker Art Centre nd

During the 1960s and 1970s Joseph Beuys helped to solidify performance arts position within the art scene He used a collaboration of sound time and objects in a series of actions to create sculptural performances These performances were often recorded and demonstrated the captivating manner in which the artist was able to use his physical and psychic energy in which to create scenes infused with historical mythological and personal significance Moma nd Beuys believed that performance art was an intuitive approach in which he could convey his belief in the artists ability to repair a damaged world Turner 2001

Beuys was spurred on by the ideal belief human creativity could be universal and that art could create revolutionary change This belief is what led Beuys to advocate this theory of the concept of Social Sculpture during the 1970s when his political activism was at the forefront This was the idea that each human being had the potential to creatively contribute to the reshaping of society in other words society as an artwork Tate Collection 2009

Beuys idea of everyone as an artist was very power

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