- Birthday, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Joseph Beuys on Art, Language, Creativity, Revolution, and More


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.”


“To be a teacher is my greatest work of art. The rest is the waste product, a demonstration. If you want to express yourself you must present something tangible. But after a while this has only the function of a historic document. Objects aren’t very important any more. I want to get to the origin of matter, to the thought behind it.”


“My art cannot be understood primarily by thinking. My art touches people who are in tune with my mode of thinking. But it is clear that people cannot understand my art by intellectual processes alone, because no art can be experienced in that way.”


“I try to go further on over the threshold where modern art ends and anthropological art has to start.”


“I am interested in the creativity of the criminal attitude because I recognize in it the existence of a special condition of crazy creativity. A creativity without morals fired only by the energy of freedom and the rejection of all codes and laws. For freedom rejects the dictated roles of the law and of the imposed order and for this reason is isolated.”


“I just want to encourage everyone to take this into their own hands, the educational process.. .We don’t need a brilliant talent somewhere. Precisely the ability that one has at the moment must be put to work.”


“Only on condition of a radical widening of definitions will it be possible for art and activities related to art [to] provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power. Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the death-line: to dismantle in order to build ‘A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART.'”


“I was invited to come here to speak about my idea of art, which is to enlarge the effectivity of art beyond the idea of art as coming out of art history—an art idea which contains the well-known disciplines like sculpture, architecture, painting, music, dancing, poetry and so on. I would like to declare why I feel that it’s now necessary to establish a new kind of art, able to show the problems of the whole society, of every living being—and how this new discipline—which I call social sculpture—can realize the future of humankind. It could be a guarantee for the evolution of the earth as a planet, establish conditions for other planetarians too, and you can control it with your own thinking.”


“The idea of creativity is for me the problem of the future. Since the creative power is not a simple thing. It has a rich structure. It is divided into a lot of different principles and represented by figures, and these figures you can also write down in a kind of symbolic mantra. It is important to work on every point of creativity and see how the human being stands in the energy that comes out from the surrounding world.”


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