Monday, February 07, 2005

being peuyssed off with Beuys

I've not yet seen the Joseph Beuys exhibition at the Tate, but I'm fairly sure that it's all utterly meaningless in a thoroughly fine Fine Art sort of way, given that Beuys was the work. recreating the way he arranged some stuff once is the same as laying out a few of Beethoven's manuscripts and inviting us to enjoy the music. the man himself was clearly totally off the wall - Trickster in a greasy fedora. but I think he was an artist.
(*waggles hand a bit*)
the iconographic leitmotif of the pieces Beuys used to create during his 'actions' (the seminal prefigurations of most subsequent 'performance art') was the material, felt, and animal fat. these were supposed to refer to a personal epiphany, the turning-point in his life when, as a pilot in the Luftwaffe, he was shot down over the Crimea and rescued from his burning plane by a group of Tartar nomads. he maintained that these - his guardian angels - returned him to life by larding his badly-burnt body with yak-fat and wrapping him entirely in felt.
the truth - revealed after his death - is more mundane: he (and his co-pilot) were shot down, but they managed to make a safe crash-landing in a field. they photographed each other afterwards standing stoically next to their trusty Stuka. no fat. no felt.
he's not the first artist, nor will he be the last, to have woven a life's work out of a fictional personna: Carlos Castaneda and Eleanor Antin come most immediately to mind. but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's still actually deeply pissed about discovering that, because it does matter that the emotional engagement that's being drawn out of one as a spectator in response to the juxtaposition of all those felt-and-fat artefacts and the knowledge of their biographical provenance is, in fact, fraudulent. in effect, one's being invited to draw truth out of a lie, which is all very contentious and postmodern, but actually deeply off-pissing.
so fuck off, Joseph.
anywho, here, thanks to the splendid ubuweb::sound online collection, Mr Lying Bastard Felt himself, with his 1970 hit, Ja ja ja Ne ne ne.

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