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Unforeseen circumstances, and oftentimes unwillful involvement, can create for the individual unwelcomed characteristics, traits, and perceptions. Said consequences can feel inescapable, amorphously growing over time as the inability to recuperate from them is prolonged. The determining factor in overcoming any undesired attribution is you, the individual. A self-reconciliaton with one’s core values, and those which are forced upon oneself, must be realized, and only then can a new relationship with what is out of your control be born. Joseph Beuys, German born artist, consiglieri to the Free International University, and the “man, myth, legend� type in the truest sense, dealt with the conflictions of these forces his entire life. From an early age he was subjugated by a higher power, an evil force which still infects society in various forms today. And once he participated in that, whether coerced or not, he could no longer turn back to a more innocent self. However, he decided not to let a label and event define his entirety for eternity, deciding to part-take in a redemption of the self, a demonstration of forgiving and giving. Much of what Beuys tried to push in his lifetime was the idea that as a society we need to reassess our modes of communication, with an emphasis on new languages of healing. This stems from his guilt for his implications in the Holocaust, being a pilot for the Nazi party. Today in America, rhetoric that is eerily similar to that which was pushed during the time of World War II, is being thrown into the air haphazardly and is being normalized in mainstream structures. There appears now to be a divide, between those who choose to be submissive or passive, those who associate, and those who choose to dissociate. Given the tenuous nature of the conditions we are all facing, none of these options seem viable if we are to reach a new level of understanding and commitment to equity as a whole. With this project, the intention is to present an interaction between the life and work of Joseph Beuys and the current sociopolitical climate that we all face, particularly today in America. The capability to draw comparisons between these seemingly disparate areas is realized with the use of popular American culture. Joseph Beuys meets Wile E. Coyote meets a nation which has reached a new level of divisiveness. A point of relatability is the first step in pushing any ideas and content, and the points of unrelatability are what drive new perspectives on ideas and content.

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In Ancient Greek society, Vitex agnus-castus, also referred to as Chaste tree, was used as a way of honouring the Goddess of fertility, Ceres. In 1972 in Naples, Italy, a region known to be able to grow Vitex agnus-castus, Joseph Beuys carried out a performance bearing this plants name. Beuys had tied a piece of Chaste tree, along with a Cobalt blue ribbon, to his hat. He then lay in between two piles of fat, each containing equal amounts of copper and iron, and began to rub each pile with his greased hands, acting as a conductor. What Beuys was intending to conduct was not of an electrical state, but rather what he referred to as “warm energy�. This particular energy was crucial to Beuys’ vision as to how we could all move towards a more unified society through free thought. And in a society where imposed dominance has become so pervasive, the use of both copper and iron to make a circuit becomes doubly important. By having iron as a conductor of energy and copper as a container of it, as well as a reference to the vitex plant, Beuys was using these materials as analogies for masculinity and femininity. And for us to move towards a more enlightened society, we must give equal credence and voice to all genders and sexual orientations. So for Beuys to absorb the energies from both materials, he attempted to apply this rebalancing to himself.


As a child Beuys had a strong gravitation towards science and the natural world. Oftentimes he would explore the plots of land around his home in Kleve, collecting plant and animal specimens in order to conduct experiments and display his findings. In these same formative years, Beuys was also invested in finding and exploring his own psyche through drawing and music. These early interests would coalesce themselves into what we’ve come to recognize as core elements of Joseph Beuys’ life/work. It almost seems obvious that the presumption of a disjuncture between the scientific world and spiritual world could be remedied through art. It was with scientific process that the doorway into the secrets of the natural world could be unlocked, and with spiritual practice (taking the form of art), that these secrets become relatable. There are different materials, species, and phenomina which contain any number of properties proven within our current methods of research. But all these tangible items and properties of such also contain metaphors, messages, and feelings that are evoked in the eye of the beholder. When Beuys was searching for botanical samples, was he studying them to discover their medicinal and horticultural potential, or was he trying to unearth the invisible energies which drew him towards these objects in the first place? Similarly, when Beuys was drawing and realizing his creative capacities, was it an adolescent meditation of self, or was he quite literally attempting to draw comparisons between his personal attributes and those he was discovering in the natural world? Beuys said that art is the only practice which is able to transcend the specialization required in all other fields of research. Hypotheses and conclusions are imbedded with intuition. Materials, chemicals, substances, ought to be brought into question not for the reissue of a textbook, but because something about them speaks to us, despite language barriers. We ought to strive for a new curriculum, one that teaches lessons of love through empiricism. Promoting an equilibirum of all exploratory forces. Interest in testing our senso-cognitive capacities with compassion is at the core of revolutionary implementation. Look up the Free International University Manifesto. We’re probably already saying too much.


1977. A revisiting of Beuys’ earlier performance in Basel, Switzerland, Celtic +~~~~. Adorned with flashlights attached just above his knees, Beuys alludes to the alchemical belief that this point on the body has the potential to harness and give power. And for the purpose of Beuys, power in the sense of travel and trasnferrence of healing and regenerative energy. This idea is reinforced by him sitting in a basin of water and being doused in chunks of fat and water, a post-modern baptism. Beuys also washes the feet of seven spectators, referencing Christ’s action of washing the feet of the seven Apostles: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John, 13: 14-16) This gesture recreated by Beuys is a suggestion of his desire for social equality through the use of art as a healing tool. There is a passage of tenderness and care through information, and with language that is unspoken. Nobody’s presence or ideas take credence over anothers, and mutuality takes precedence.

This project, and the ones that will be spawned out of it, come from a place of wanting to educate. Being capable of properly educating means not simply presenting factoids and formulas within a public sphere. There must be the attempt to impart lessons on a deeper cognitive level pertaining to sensory and emotional experience, namely, love. Information does not contain within it a desire to sway or influence. It is when information makes contact with the human condition that it has the ability to sway or influence, and as such becomes knowledge. , , There are in theory no ideas or concepts, once absorbed, that an individual can be indifferent to. There is an intermediary zone in-between affirming and denying said ideas/concepts, it is just in need of a correction in terminology and function. This intermediary zone, dominated by free-thinkers, non-thinkers, and all-thinkers, was for Joseph Beuys the space he dreamed of developing and presenting as a solution to society’s binary divisions in thought. Beuys would refer to the occupying and utilizing of this space as the creation of the “third condition”. The act of something being buoyant is proof of this third condition. It is being able to extrapolate the essence of all internal and external forces in relation to oneself in order to maintain stability, balance, equilibrium. But gaining this buoyancy entails being equally as active as those forces which continually try to expand in all directions. Perhaps the most powerful form of activity in this Beuysian instance, is the spreading of knoweldge as the way to eterally democratize and shape ideas. For ideas cannot only be in theory, in the sense that these ideas must also be put into practice in order to demonstrate the alternative; a hope for symbiosis. Do not let your curiosities be burdened by the fabricated necessity to comply with one set of laws, practices, or beliefs. Rather, seek out the in- betweens. Promote the implementation of compromises, alternatives, and the other. Seek out the people, places, thoughts and ideas otherwise neglected, and instigate interactions between them. This goes hand in hand with a proactive approach towards teaching and learning about your personal narratives in tandem with an understanding of difference. These are only suggestions, best guesses at what could possibly be done to remedy mutating conditions of collective pain (referencing the work of Joseph Beuys with personal input after being exposed to said work). Nobody really knows what to do, but we can try to create your own evolutionary process’ by inheriting/transforming personal histories in order to benefit collective histories. We live in a dark, celestial world, and all we can do is try our best to stay afloat.

Special thanks: Micheal Adams Mike Boyle Raheem Hercule Ena Kantardszic Juan Obando Nita Sturiale Bountheng Tanakhome Jakara Tolbert

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