Monday, 3 March 2014

American Beuys


In May, 1974, German artist and habitual huckster Joseph Beuys flew to New York and was met at the airport by an ambulance. Beuys was put into the ambulance on a gurney, his person completely swathed in a blanket of thick grey felt. The ambulance took him immediately to a room in the René Block Gallery at 409 West Broadway.

He remained in the felt blanket until the door of the performance room was shut. The artist shared the room with a wild coyote, spending eight hours a day with it over the course of three days. Sometimes Beuys wrapped himself in the thick, grey blanket of felt and stood leaning on a large shepherd's staff. Sometimes Beuys lay on the straw provided - sometimes the coyote did. Sometimes he stood still as the wary coyote circled around him. Sometimes the coyote shredded the thick grey felt blanket. Often Beuys and the coyote just sat and looked at each other.

Occasionally, Beuys would strike a large triangle or toss his leather gloves to the animal as "the performance continuously shifted between elements that were required by the realities of the situation, and elements that had purely symbolic character". At the end of the three days, Beuys hugged the now quite tolerant coyote, swathed himself in the thick grey felt blanket and was taken directly to the airport. Again he rode in a veiled ambulance, leaving America without having set foot on its ground. As Beuys later explained: ‘I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote.’

This performance piece was entitled 'I Like America, and America likes Me'

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