Happy birthday, Joseph Beuys! Here are some quotes from the artist.
“I think art is the only political power, the only revolutionary power, the only evolutionary power, the only power to free humankind from all repression.”
“Art alone makes life possible—this is how radically I should like to formulate it. I would say that without art people are inconceivable in physiological terms.”
“Creativity is not limited to people practicing one of the traditional forms of art, and even in the case of artists, creativity is not confined to the exercise of their art. Each one of us has a creative potential, which is hidden by competitiveness and success-aggression. To recognize, explore and develop this potential is the task of the School. Creation—whether it be a painting, sculpture, symphony or novel—involves not merely talent, intuition, powers of imagination and application, but also the ability to shape material that could be expanded to other socially relevant spheres.”
“Even the act of peeling a potato can be an artistic act if it is consciously done.”
“My objects are to be seen as stimulants for the transformation of the idea of sculpture…or of art in general. They should provoke thoughts about what sculpture can be and how the concept of sculpting can be extended to the invisible materials used by everyone.”
“It is a kind of vehicle, you know. It’s a kind of making, spreading out ideas, that is what I think. It spreads out the idea. You must care for information and I personally try to make information available not only in a written way…I try also to work with images, with fantasy, with jokes, with humor. It accelerates the discussion of the problem of a new society…so I work coming from the idea of art as the most important means to transform the society.”
“For me it is the WORD that produces all images. It is the key sign for all processes of moulding and organizing. When I use language, I try to induce the impulses of this power…the power of evolution.”
“Art is, then, a genuinely human medium for revolutionary change in the sense of completing the transformation from a sick world to a healthy one. In my opinion only art is capable of doing it.”
“My intention: healthy chaos, healthy amorphousness in a known medium which consciously warmed a cold, torpid form from the past, a convention of society, and which makes possible future forms.”
“Here my idea is to declare that art is the only possibility for evolution, the only possibility to change the situation in the world. But then you have to enlarge the idea of art to include the whole creativity. And if you do that, it follows logically that every living being is an artist—an artist in the sense that he can develop his own capacity. And therefore it’s necessary at first that society cares about the educational system, that equality of opportunity for self-realization is guaranteed.”
“But language is not to be understood simply in terms of speech and words. That is our current, drastically reduced, understanding of language…Beyond language as verbalization lies a world of sound and form impulses, a language of primary sound without semantic content, but laden with completely different levels of information.”
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.