on September 18, 2014
Joseph Beuys is one of the most legendary figures in twentieth century art. An enigmatic, self-styled "shaman" who embraced radically democratic artistic and political ideas, giving him today an almost mythical status. People entrust their shamans with the task of mentally and physically healing them by mediating between the spirits and humans. In Western culture these tasks have been divided among various professions: doctors take care of our physical well-being, while teacher, priests and artists deal with our mental welfare. We do not call these men and women shamans, perhaps because in our culture belief in good and evil spirits has been given up for the most part, and therefore there is no need to communicate with a spirit. Yet, in his art, the German artist Joseph Beuys often broached the subject of shamanism. In his sculpture, performances and drawings Beuys assumed the role of the shaman in order to heal the deficiencies of the art audience - its lack of fantasy, creativity, feeling or love, and its imperfect understanding between the body and the mind in nature. Beuys's art seeks to reawaken all those slumbering forces to help an individual heal himself. However as is evident in all of his artistic output, the artist helps us heal from within where the spirit of our natural selves awaits the shock into presence.
Mark Rosenthal is the perfect guide to illustrate and articulate the art, the artistic credo, and the challenge that is Joseph Beuys.