Joseph Beuys is a hard sell. Not so much to art patrons who’ve likely heard of the artist or seen his work, but to an average art house movie audience who want to be entertained, the name might not ring many bells. To that crowd Joseph Beuys might seem to reflect all the things the uninitiated dislike about modern art- that its punchline seems enigmatic and snobs are snickering at you if you don’t get it on first glance. But these false perceptions make the film “Beuys” a perfect addition to our ongoing collaboration between Texas Theatre and Nasher.
Beuys emerged from a Germany decimated by world war and then seized in a kind of artistic midlife crisis. Decades later the work of filmmakers like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Rainier Fassbender was all influenced by the destruction of former fascist Germany as was the music of Kraftwerk and Einstürzende Neubauten following that. Joseph Beuys was the rock star of the Fluxus movement that influenced them all. Until now there has never been a comprehensive documentary about the elusive artist that chips away at his mythic persona that became his shadow.
An essential fuel to his work is a vested interest in destroying conventional views wherever possible. He relished heated televised debates, several of which are shown in the film and still seem outlandish today. One of Beuys main tenants was blurring the lofty term “artist” to be an inclusive act with no participation barriers between audience and creator. This was often done with common objects that lingered with surprising effect, making a jar of honey seem like a political statement or a walk through the forest seem like an act of artistic defiance. This film offers a doorway into Joseph Beuys thinking, as well as a complicated past with his own country and its role on the world stage.
Special Screening Presented by The Nasher Sculpture Center. Stick around after the film for a special Kraftwerk-style DJ set in the lounge!