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Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 12:19 am
Beuys and me

Colour me gobsmacked, bollock-chuffed and flyposted all over town. Not only is there a one-page picture of me in Street magazine this month, I've just found another rather amazing picture in another of my favourite magazines.

Leafing through the September issue of British art magazine Frieze I found, on page 155, a picture of Joseph Beuys doing a didactic lecture-performance called The Jimmy Boyle Days at the Canongate Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh in 1980. It's an illustration for an article by Jan Verwoert called "Class Action". You can read the feature here.



"Fuck," I thought, "I went to that!" And sure enough, on closer inspection, there I am, sitting in the front row, a skinny, glaikit student wearing Doc Martens and Metzler Harvard spectacles. I don't even think I have any photos of myself aged 20, but it's me all right, a stern virgin with a big crush on art. How bizarre that it should appear in Frieze magazine, 26 years later! And that I should have morphed in the meantime into some kind of performance artist myself!

I was in that historic, hot little room (it took a lot to make me roll my sleeves up in those days) largely thanks to two people: dynamic Edinburgh curator and culturepreneur Ricky Demarco, who invited Beuys to Scotland several times, and writer Caroline Tisdall, who the year before had published a very big, very stern and grey book on Beuys which I'd bought at the Edinburgh Bookshop. It was full of strange introverted drawings of hares and honey, or grainy black and white photographs of performances. Perhaps I hoped to impress the art student I was currently longing helplessly for, Paula Garcia Sarria, or perhaps the book just tied in with the grim, grey, grainy aesthetic of the latest album from Dome.

"Caroline Tisdall's book on Joseph Beuys, published by Thames and Hudson in 1979, was the first contemporary art book I bought," I wrote last year. "I can honestly say it changed my life. I fell under Beuys' shamanic spell and, when Richard Demarco announced in 1980 that Beuys would deliver a lecture in Edinburgh as part of the Free International University (Beuys' informal university), I made sure I was there. About twenty-five of us sat in a little room in a courtyard off Edinburgh's Cowgate as Beuys, rather enfeebled by his hunger strike in solidarity with Jimmy Boyle, sipped from a glass of water and made one of his tortuously intricate spidery blackboards explaining the connections between the striking British Aerospace workers at Coventry and ancient Celtic snakelore. There is a connection, you know. Let's find that blackboard and I'll prove it."

Well, I know it looks a bit like a scene out of Gnarls Barkley's Smiley Faces video, but proof that I was there in that room with Kunstler Beuys in 1980 is now on page 155 of the current edition of Frieze. For me, it's a giddy thrill.

30CommentReplyFlag

cityramica
cityramica
cityramica
Sun, Sep. 17th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)

::grabs issue of Frieze::
:)))
well color me amused and jealous! good eye.

gosh you know as recently as last year i had classes at stanford based around Beuys. wish i could have been there 26 years ago.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Sep. 17th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)

You could have taken my young maidenhead too, a year early!


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klasensjo
klasensjo
klasensjo
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 01:13 am (UTC)


photo: Ha Lam

Beuys's look somewhat resembles "art brut" music extraordinaire Jandek.


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sparkligbeatnic
sparkligbeatnic
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)


My former favourite cafe in Kyoto, Pachamama, which closed a few years ago when the owner moved into the hills to grind coffee beans for a living, was, amongst other things, a shrine to Beuys.

Here's a remixed Balinese soundscape including Beuys' voice.

Didn't read much of that Frieze article, however the quote at the beginning is inspiring: "To be a teacher is my greatest work of art". This is followed later by an ominous image of him being kicked out of the academy, escorted by the police, just as Documenta 5 (or was it 4?) was beginning. Dramatic!




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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 10:23 am (UTC)

Interesting, that Balinese soundscape thing actually sounds quite like some of the audio art my art school crush Paula is now doing. She mixes the sounds of her own body, captured with medical equipment, with ticky tocky beats, as in this piece.


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)

Wow.

I'm jealous that you got to hear Beuys speak.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 08:53 am (UTC)

Beuys, Beuys, it's a sweet thing...

Actually did you notice that Beuys gets a namecheck on a song on Scot Walker's latest album?


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petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 10:02 am (UTC)

beuys keep swinging
beuys always work it out


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bikerbar
bikerbar
bikerbar
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 10:10 am (UTC)

I love the way Beuys dispensed with centuries of European art, developed under the rise of empires, and threw his focus much further back with the Celts and transiberian nomads. Far too much is made of his airplane crash, but it makes for good copy. The objects he left behind, except for the early drawings, tend to make for rather boring museum views. But thats not the point of his work. The man and his ideas are what resonates. There is a lot of Rudolf Steiner in Beuys, and in this way he links with a spiritual German ethos, pre WWII value structure that I believe many are wary of today, unfortunately. He's also very much a child of the 60s, and that's a spirit that must never die.

Nice to see you there young Nick - interesting how photos from the 80s have that patina of nostalgia now ...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 10:16 am (UTC)

Well, in Scotland 1980 was still very much a part of the 70s, as you can see from the way most people there are dressed.

I think I was wearing my "irridescent" New Romantic trousers. They were purple when you looked at them from one angle, green from another. (But of course I still managed to look like the third Proclaimer.)


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svenskasfinx
NOT Greta Garbo
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 10:42 am (UTC)
I'm curious to know something..

How exactly did you go from international boarding school to "art school"?

Isn't that just what the "posh" warn their children NOT to do?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 11:12 am (UTC)
Re: I'm curious to know something..

How exactly did you go from international boarding school to "art school"?

I don't really understand the question... Is it for me? I didn't do this. I was at a boarding school for three years in my early teens while my family travelled doing TEFL stuff (so the fees were partly paid by the British Council). I never went to art school.


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jasongtokyo
jasongtokyo
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)

The first thing I thought of when I saw the picture was that it looks like a still from the set of my beloved Heaven's Gate, specifically this scene.


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telephoneface
telephoneface
Mon, Sep. 18th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)

http://www.ubu.com/film/beuys.html

Beuys tried his luck as a pop singer as part of his political commitment. His song 'Sonne statt Reagan' attacks Ronald Reagan's arms policy. The song was issued as a record and Beuys appeared before big audiences with it during the peace movement's demonstrations and also with the group Die Desserteure in the ARD television broadcast 'Bananas' on 3.7.1982.

'Regen'', pronounced like 'Reagan', is the German for 'rain'.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Sep. 19th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)

I hope i'm not mistakened or repeating something someone else may have already mentioned or you already know, but i'm sure you were mentioned by name in one of the articles too, and not in reference to the photograph.

I'll have to go and check.


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