TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 1991

JOSEPH BEUYS: THE BODY OF THE ARTIST

I had for too long a time dragged a body around with me.
—Joseph Beuys, 1956

Suffering
Warmth
Sound
Plasticity
Fulfillment of time
entered the thalidomide child’s room
Does the music of the past help him????
—Joseph Beuys, text accompanying a drawing of a pentagram, 1966

IN LEBENSLAUF WERKLAUF (Life course, work course), Joseph Beuys lists two “exhibitions” that contain in their titles, as though in simple conceptual seed, all that follows in his art. One, “Kleve Ausstellung von Kälte” (Kleve exhibition of cold), occurred in 1945, the year Germany was defeated and Beuys was repatriated after being a prisoner of war in the USSR. The other, “Kleve warme Ausstellung” (Kleve warm exhibition), occurred in 1946, the year Beuys finally decided to become an artist rather than a scientist. Kleve was Beuys’ home town. Returning to it after the war, he renewed his relationship with his parents, which, as he once said, “cannot be characterized as a close one.” This failure of intimacy and warmth was surely not helped by the fact that “times were hard and had a tremendously threatening and oppressive effect on me as a child.”1 Thus, for whatever combination of subjective and objective reasons, Beuys’ parents failed him in the first responsibility of parents to their children: to make them feel safe.2

Beuys did have “a very lasting attachment to the lower Rhine region and to Kleve,” and to certain men there whom he regarded as “models,”3 and who no doubt compensated for his distance from his parents, especially his remote father. But his major compensation was fantasy. In playing shepherd—with a staff (the ancestor of his “Eurasian staff,” as the artist acknowledged), and “an imaginary herd gathered around me”4—Beuys became his own parent. If, as Erik H. Erikson writes, children’s first psychic task is to develop trust, usually through a warm relationship with their parents, then Beuys taught himself trust through his fantasy of himself as a shepherd, a parent for his sheep. In trusting their parents, children learn self-trust, the basis on which they develop autonomy, initiative, and industry, and overcome such self-denying feelings of hurt as shame and doubt, guilt and inferiority.5 Thus Beuys, by trusting himself through his fantasy, soothed and ultimately healed himself. It was a form of convalescence, as it were, in which he undid and reversed the self-undermining feelings his parents’ apparent coldness had induced, and acquired the building blocks of a secure self.

Beuys’ art too was a convalescent fantasy—the kind of Sisyphean convalescence in which the emotionally disturbed patient, struggling to reach the mountaintop of health, always threatens to tumble down again, yet always keeps on climbing. Beuys’ fantasy of symbiotic warmth and intimacy between shepherd and sheep became the model for his conception of the necessarily personal relationship of artist and audience. The artist was to care for his audience, which would reciprocate by flourishing under his protection, just as Beuys, feeling the warmth of his imaginary herd, did actually become healthy and independent. This psychic drama of warmth and intimacy between artist and audience bespeaks the healing intention of Beuys’ art—its therapeutic mission. He wanted to give his German audience the care that would cure it of its postwar feelings of deprivation, isolation, and hurt, inflicted on it by the desperate failings of the parent state.6

Beuys did not see the herd as all bad. Unlike Nietzsche, who was so perpetually anxious about his autonomy that he asserted it vigorously and megalomaniacally against a social herd he imagined as dumb and passive, Beuys found his autonomy in symbiotic merger with his audience rather than in opposition to it. He moved fluidly, and in both directions, along the continuum between herd and autonomy, intimacy and individuality.

Beuys’ “totalized concept of art” involved the sense that what had become “hardened” by life originated “out of the fluid process” and could be returned to it to be re-formed. What had “solidified,” like congealed fat or wax, had only to be softened by artistic warmth to be given a more human form. Beuys intended this principle to be applied “not only to artistic forms, but also to social forms or legal forms or economic forms, or also agricultural problems . . . or educational problems.” For him, art brought together “every man’s possibilities to be a creative being and . . . the question of [the form of] the social totality.”7 The idea that individual and social health are inseparable is crucial to this concept. For Beuys, art was a process of simultaneous self- and social healing. He meant to cure, through artistic warmth, Germany’s pathological hardening into a totalitarian regime during his childhood.

Beuys’ personal need to save himself from self-deprecating feelings fused with the German people’s identical need. They had given their trust to a leader, a shepherd, who had betrayed them—a false and bad parent. Now, on top of the profound effects of defeat, destruction, and shame, they had to face the world’s cold hatred. Beuys would help them. He understood quite clearly, however, that his art was essentially psychosocial, deriving as much from his unhappy childhood experience and fantasy as from the needs of the moment. “Titles such as ‘Stag Leader’ or ‘Ghengis Khan’s Grave,’” Beuys said, “can be interpreted as fundamentally psychological.” They allude to “early experiences, some of which are dreams, which one really experiences as a child.”8 Kinderbadewanne (Child’s bathtub, 1960) testifies to Beuys’ strong memories of his childhood, and to art as a kind of curative child’s play.9 Such objects—they proliferate in Beuys’ art—are memento mori and have been transformed into signs of hope. One can be reborn or rebaptized in the child’s tub—one can be made as fluid as the water of life again—just as Beuys meant the piles of old newspapers he later used in his art as symbolic batteries generating the warm and warming energy of life.

When Beuys returned to Kleve after the war, he had been seriously hurt five times in the fighting, receiving a gold-ribbon decoration awarded the wounded. He had also experienced the warmth of the Tartars who had rescued him after his plane was shot down over the snowy Crimea in 1943. They had cared for him, Beuys claimed, for about eight days, saving his life by wrapping him in fat and felt, until a German search group found him. Doubts have been raised about what Beuys’ experience among the Tartars actually was.10 There is no question, however, that it was seminal for his art and life, and stood between him and complete physical and mental breakdown, the clinical depression that he in fact suffered for a while a decade after the war. (This breakdown was for him, as he acknowledged, the war’s real—emotional—end.11) Beuys’ preoccupation with warmth and intimacy to renew body and self, with concrete physical experience of life-giving material,12 dates from his nursing by the Tartars, whom he regarded as family.13 No doubt he idealized them and internalized them too eagerly, out of desperate need, but in emotional fact they were indeed a family, a tribe, a herd, that he was invited to join. And they were Beuys’ good parents, affording a total environment of care that repaired the devastating emotional damage done him by his bad parents and later the actual, physical injuries he had suffered for his bad government. Healing Beuys, and teaching him to heal himself, the Tartars gave him another, lucky chance, as an adult, to receive the warmth and intimacy he had earlier been denied.

Such “secondary” closeness is never as good as the “primary” closeness one should receive as a child, but it is better than nothing. It keeps one operational, despite the ineradicable feeling that one was broken by life just after one began it. One’s life becomes a contradiction between inner feelings of inadequacy and outer activity. That is better, however, than feeling all victim. In psychological fact, Beuys’ art was a kind of compensatory acting out of his childhood feeling of personal hurt. Needless to say, he also had a strong ego, consciously making art of great intellectual stature and esthetic originality. His art was a dialectic between childhood dream and adult social intention. (What is always of interest in an important artist is the convergence of unconscious and conscious intentions.) Perhaps he exaggerated the hurt—perhaps it was as much of a dream as his shepherd fantasy, a case more of a delusion of his parents’ wrongdoing than of anything they actually did. In any case, it was a narrative that justified his utopian social goals. And it is well-known to psychoanalysts that grandiose fantasies of social utopia, expressing as they do an implicit reluctance to face reality as it is, compensate for painful narcissistic deficits.

The Tartars taught Beuys how to make his own warmth and intimacy—how to be close to himself. As an artist, he never forgot their lesson. The 1945 “Kleve Ausstellung von Kälte” acknowledged the coldness of returning to the dead home and dead society, but the 1946 “Kleve wartne Ausstellung” signaled that Beuys had learned how to warm himself to life by making art. As early as 1945, he knew his artistic need for warmth, making a revealing, quasi-prehistoric drawing of three naked figures around a fire—surely a fantasy of primitive Tartars huddling against the cold. By 1946 Beuys had been nourished by his closeness with the sculptor Walter Brüx and the painter Hanns Lamers, both resident in Kleve. They took him under their wing, and convinced him to become an artist. Brüx’s 1946 bust of Beuys shows the depth of the sculptor’s affection for him, and of Lamers Beuys said, “He was the only one to say, ‘For you this is the only possible way.’”14 Without these substitute good fathers, Beuys might never have become an artist, let alone one of major significance.

I cannot think of Beuys’ art without thinking of Heinz Kohut’s observation that “narcissistically disturbed individuals tend to be unable to feel warm or to keep warm. They rely on others to provide them not only with emotional but also with physical warmth.”15 One element of Beuys’ performance works was his use of the heat of the crowd to make him feel alive and strong, and his sculpture uses materials—animal fat, sheep’s-wool felt—meant to keep a creature warm or to symbolize warmth. In his art, then, he switched back and forth between the roles of shepherd tending the herd—the source of warmth—and herd needing a shepherd to keep it warm. Sometimes he encouraged the herd to generate its own warmth, as when he argued that “every man can be an artist,”16 and sometimes he took it to task for its lack of warmth toward him—a projection of his feeling of his parents’ indifference. Discussing wie man dem totem Hasen die Bilder erklärt (How to explain paintings to a dead hare, 1965), Beuys said that he preferred to speak to a dead hare because the public was not sufficiently alive to him, and did not understand him.17 That is, it did not care for him, or for itself, nor did it feel his care for it.

Ultimately Beuys’ art was inseparable from his body and his body image. Art for him was a means to remake an injured body, and the sense of self that depends on it—and in so doing to remake art, to root it once again in the body. Art was to be a radiating symbol of body heat. (In 1927, as a boy of six, Beuys held a “Kleve Aussiellung von Ausstrahlung,” a “Kleve exhibition of radiation.”) The body, of course, has always been fundamental to art, in more than a metaphorical way.18 When we speak of a body of art, we mean something quite tangible. When a sculptor turns a stone into a body, or when a painter renders one as a flat image, they are always drawing on their own physical experience, their intimate sense of being a body, from which the sense of being a self invariably follows, as Freud observed.19 What is above all at stake in bodily art is the feeling of the body’s warmth or coldness—the sense of being close to or detached from the body, especially one’s own. In his art, Beuys was always in transition from cold to warm body. He was doomed to repeat this transition compulsively because he found it hard to stay warm, both inwardly and outwardly. In a sense, he rapidly lost his warm feeling, his love for himself, a characteristic sign of narcissistic injury.

Trying to find a proper relationship to the body, Beuys never quite did. Always searching for the one truly warm body that would “fit,” he was obsessed with physicality from the start of his career, trying on or identifying with various bodies, as it were, both animal and human, female and male, in a protean way through his work. In Coyote: I like America and America likes me, 1974, for example, he lived and identified with an animal—a coyote—trying to assimilate its animal warmth. Like a latter-day Saint Francis—and there is a will to the sacred in Beuys, a sense of profound respect for the multiform possibilities of life—he preached to the animal, and learned from it. As he said, “The teaching-learning relationship must be totally open and constantly reversible.”20 In his sculpture he tested, as it were, inorganic materials, such as iron and copper, and organic materials, such as earth and wood, as possible sources of physical warmth. His figural sculpture suggests that he even tried to fashion surrogate human bodies out of raw material. But no body was ever completely satisfying: he could never feel completely warm in any skin, especially not the one nature gave him.

Using art to undo the life-denying traumas that had been inflicted on him, without denying their reality (it is this kind of activity that constitutes art’s so-called “spiritualization of life,” its fundamentally reparative task), Beuys was returning to the primordial sources of warmth, that is, to the warmth of the beginning, the warmth that, in the formative stages of life, encourages healthy growth. In effect, he tried to regrow himself. In artistically inducing “healthy chaos, healthy amorphousness”—whether by immersing himself in such materials as honey and earth, or through actions and Fluxus pieces which put his psyche and body in flux, in elemental process—he returned not only to the dream state and fantasies of childhood but to the warm, shapeless, formative period of life. In using such chaos and amorphousness to “consciously [warm] a cold, torpid form from the past, a convention of society,”21 for example a grand piano, Beuys returned it to the formative period and released the warmth crystallized in it, finding new life in it. The grand piano is no doubt a sophisticated symbol for Beuys’ own self, representing his grandiosity and remoteness, and suggesting that, childlike, he unconsciously identified with the bigness and remoteness of his parents. He treated such objects and forms—formal objects—as though they were ill, and had to be physically changed from solid to fluid, so that their warmth could become accessible and do human good. As Beuys said, “the things inside me”—the feelings and psychic configurations that can be symbolized by external cultural things—“had to be totally transplanted; a physical change had to take place in me. Illnesses are almost always spiritual crises in life, in which old experiences and phases of thought are cast off in order to permit positive changes.”22

For Beuys, the bee’s metamorphosis of honey into honeycomb was the “primary sculptural process,” and as such the model for all artmaking, personal and social. In this belief he followed the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, who saw the life process exemplified in the bee’s transformation of honey—“chaotic, flowing” material, the embodiment of “spiritual warmth” and as such an inexhaustible source of energy—into “crystalline sculptures . . . regular geometric forms.” The honeycomb was for Beuys “the negative of a rock crystal.”23 It was as geometrically exact—frozen—as the crystal, but could, by the bee’s physical warmth, be melted back—“regressed”—to a fluid state, making its own primary warmth available as nurture. The geometrical honeycomb was spiritual warmth in negative form; fluid honey was spiritual warmth as a positive force for life. Beuys’ masses and corners of fat can be seen as stand-ins for honey, energy-filled matter in a state between warm liquid and cold crystal. His piano was a crystal, to be melted down by being wrapped in warming felt, like the many other cultural products he wrapped to restore to life. One of his last social-sculptural “acts” was to try to “wrap” Andy Warhol in his warmth, which failed, because Warhol was irremediably cold—frozen, a black hole of nothingness in which everything disappeared. It is as though Warhol remained the cold child that Beuys felt his own parents almost made him. Beuys’ art was an endless compulsion repetition of the same act of warming the unwarmable.

For Beuys, vital warmth, inherently spiritual, was a source of fullness of bodily and spiritual being. To try to regress to it was to become full in his being, to know a paradisiac experience of plenitude he had never known in childhood, although he undoubtedly experienced it as a productive artist. Indeed, the magic of Beuys’ oeuvre as a whole—an incredibly variegated body of work—is that it seems to have been produced out of abundance, as though he were in perpetual art motion. He clearly lived his art and it lived him. Yet he also suffered from a profound feeling of inward lack, of self-absence. Nietzsche distinguished between artists who work out of a sense of inner abundance and those who work out of a sense of limits, that is, the maximalists and the minimalists; in this sense, Beuys was inwardly a minimalist, outwardly a maximalist. He had to make art all the time to replenish a body and spirit that seemed empty. Nietzsche’s distinction reflects differing senses of the body—the self-maximalizing warm body in contrast to the self-minimalizing cold body. Beuys was inwardly a minimalist—cold—but he was able, like a bee, to maximalize his resources—to become warm. This is why he invariably experienced cold “minimalists” like Marcel Duchamp and Robert Morris as a threat, criticizing them to distance himself from them.24 Both those artists tried to effect the transition from minimalist to maximalist that Beuys did, but with less, or with more equivocal, success.

The sense of damage speaks everywhere in Beuys’ art. As one critic wrote of a 1971 exhibition of drawings and objects, “From the bandaged archaic little feet and the dirty dark red gloves of a child, to the moldy page with many crossed out numbers, his own childhood comes alive.”25 Beuys’ 1976 installation Strassenbahnhaltestelle (Tramway/tram stop) has been understood as reflecting his experience “as a five-year-old [who] would get on and off the tram . . . and cross over to sit on one of the low iron shapes beneath the column. He did not know what they were, but their mystery told him they could only be something good. . . . What attracted the child was an intuition of his own history and time and the presence of something that nobody noticed.”26 Beuys was in effect that nobody, just as, in my opinion, he was the dead hare in wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt—he was explaining the paintings he made as an adult to the dead child within him, in order to breathe life into it. (The hare could double as dead child and indifferent audience because in the infinitely protean unconscious, where Beuys was quite at home, there is no contradiction, as Freud observes.) Similarly, in Beuys’ 1976 installation Zeige deine Wunde (Show your wound), the wound is that inflicted in childhood. And his wagon train of rescue sleds in Das Rudel (The pack, 1969) suggests the need to be rescued and healed from childhood’s wounds.

Sometimes the only way to recover from the trauma of childhood is to be reborn, which recapitulates the trauma but gives one a fresh start. Symbolically, this is what seems to have occurred in the 1970 action Celtic (Kinloch Rannoch) Scottish Symphony. After spilling gelatin over himself—to signify a return to fluidity—and standing unmoving, as though dead, for over half an hour, Beuys went into a tub filled with water and had water poured over him. This was a symbolic return to his childhood tub. In Beuys’ 1982 ecological sculpture made for Kassel, hard, unmoving, dead rocks lay tumbled on the ground, and living, growing trees were to be planted in the earth to replace them. Rocks and trees stand to each other as crystalline honeycomb and liquid honey do. (The rocks also represent the steppes over which Beuys was shot down during World War II.) Again, the transition of metamorphosis is the issue. That sense of transition—of being between states and thus in process—is especially evident in Beuys’ extraordinary sense of surface or texture, of the different “touches” that materials have—soft or hard, fluidly smooth or harshly rough. For him, texture seems to have indicated the state of the warmth latent in the material and waiting to be released by sculptural process, thus becoming available to life.27

All of Beuys’ works can be interpreted as an attempt to return to and re-present the beginning in order to escape the deep hurt that brings one close to death. The social dimension of Beuys’ work—including his political and educational activities, which he regarded as inseparable from his art—reflects his attempt to teach other sufferers the lesson of his wound and its cure by warmth. Beuys wanted to wrap them in perpetual warmth, to cradle them like wounded babies, just as he, with his signature felt suit, tried to keep himself warm against inner and outer pain. He understood that the personal is, indeed, the political, that is, that one’s attitude to other people profoundly informs, even creates, sociopolitical reality.

Exhibition, as Masud Khan ironically observes, is a primitive mode of narcissistic gratification, and as such a way of seeming to relate and give to others while not actually doing so. Yet Beuys made artistic exhibition a sacred social service rather than simply self-serving. Once again, he showed his importance by his ability to reverse an expectation dialectically, eluding defeat by a psychological reality. Beuys’ exhibition of himself and his art—of his body self as art—was a profound act of giving.

Donald Kuspit is a professor of art history and philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His most recent book is Alex Katz: Night Paintings (Harry N. Abrams), and he is the editor of a new series of books on contemporary criticism to be published by Cambridge University Press. He will shortly become the A. D. White Professor at Large, Cornell University, for 1991–92.

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NOTES

1. Götz Adriani, Winfried Konnertz, and Karin Thomas, Joseph Beuys, Life and Works, trans. Patricia Lech, Woodbury, N.Y.: Barron’s Educational Series, 1979, pp. 9 and 11.
2. Joseph Sandler, in “The Background of Safety,” From Safety to Superego, New York and London: The Guilford Press, 1987, points out the indispensability of a primitive “safety feeling” for development, and its derivation from the relationship with the parents.
3. Adriani et al., p. II.
4. Ibid., p. 12.
5. See Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society, New York: W. W. Norton, 1963, paperback ed., pp. 247–61.
6. Adriani et al., p. 241, implies that Beuys turned to individual action as political action because, having experienced the Nazi regime, he could never again trust politicians—could never again leave the governing of society to their defective sense of human relations and values.
7. Quoted in Adriani et al., p. 283. It is because Beuys conceived of art as the method of social “re-form”—transcending conventional conceptions of revolution and evolution, if using both—that he was able to regard such activities as the founding on 1 June 1971 of the Organisation für direkte se Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (Freie Volksinitiative. e. V.) (Organization for direct democracy through referendum [Free People’s Initiative, Inc.]), and on 24 June 1977 of the Freie Internationale Hochschule für Kreativität und Interdisziplinäre Forschung (Free international university for creativity and interdisciplinary research) as artistic—social sculptural—in character. Moreover, as Heiner Stachelhaus writes in his Joseph Beuys, trans. David Britt, New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1991, p. 91, Beuys’ famous “Aufruf zur Alternative,” which first appeared in the Frankfurter Rundschau on 23 December 1978, was the “fundamental document” of the social program of the Green party. As Beuys said, social “humanism can best be further developed through art” (Adriani et al., p 255). It is also worth noting that Beuys’ conception of direct democracy was modeled, as he acknowledged, on Rudolf Steiner’s Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus (Alliance for the three structures of a social organism), founded in 1919. As Adriani et al. write (pp. 220–21), Steiner’s “basic idea . . . was that the social life of mankind could only be healthy if it was consciously structured. The independently developed individual should no longer recognize the total power of the state. The working power of the individual should not be degraded as a commodity. . . . To attain these goals . . . there needs to be an independence of state, economy, and intellectual life,” that is, “liberty in spirit, equality before the law, fraternity in economic matters.” They add that Steiner proposed a revitalization of “the old ideals of the French Revolution.” Beuys’ Organisation für direkte Demokratie was explicitly intended to cure a sick society and to realize Steiner’s conception of the ideal—healthy—social organism. For Beuys, art was in the service of social health, from which individual health would follow.
8. Ibid., pp. 11–12. Beuys also described his “actions”—so-called “happenings”—as “psychoanalytic” in intention.
9. For D. W. Winnicott, truly creative art is a form of play, and the inability to play suggests profound pathology. According to him, artistic, creative playing is a kind of self-cure. Beuys in effect sets dead—“unplayful”—objects into play, restoring them to the life process. Play involves investing dead objects with one’s own life, bringing them to life—and displaying ones own inner life—for others. “Individuals,” Winnicott writes in Playing and Reality, Middlesex: Penguin, 1971, p. 83, “live creatively and feel that life is worth living or else . . . they cannot live creatively and are doubtful about the value of living.” Beuys’ art can be understood as an attempt to overcome deep doubts about living - induced by the defective “quantity and quality of environmental provision [in] the early phases of [his] living experience”—through creative artistic play with the idea as well as the material of life,
10. See Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Beuys: The Twilight of the Idol.” Artforum XVIII no. 5, January 1980, pp. 35–43. Buchloh does not understand that Beuys’ experience among the Tartars, even if the facts changed in Beuys’ telling, was a kind of dream experience psychologically necessary for his survival, whatever it may have been in reality. There may have been an unconscious connection in Beuys’ mind between the Tartars and the Jews, whose experience in the Holocaust he never directly and extensively addressed in his work.
11. Adriani et al., pp. 56–57
12. “Fat” wrote Beuys, “infiltrates other materials, is gradually absorbed and brings about a process of INFILTRATION: felt absorbs anything with which it comes into contact—fat, dirt, dust, water or sound—and is therefore quickly integrated into its environment. FAT expands and soaks into its surroundings. FELT attracts and absorbs what surrounds it.” Quoted in Caroline Tisdall, Joseph Beuys, exhibition catalogue, New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1979, p. 74.
13. Adriani et al., p. 19.
14. Ibid., p. 22.
15. Heinz Kohut, The Analysis of the Self, New York: International Universities Press, 1971, p. 64.
16. Adriani et al., p. 4.
17. Ibid., pp. 130–32. In this piece, truly exemplary of the poles of the sculptural process as Beuys conceived it, liquid honey played a prominent role: Beuys covered his head and face with it, counteracting the stiffness of the dead hare he cradled lovingly in his arms.
18. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in Phenomenology of Perception, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962, p. 150, in effect identifies the body with the work of art, suggesting their emotional inseparability. “The body is to be compared, not to a physical object, but rather to a work of art.” The reverse is also true. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty observes that “‘visual data’ make their appearance only through the sense of touch, tactile data through sight, each localized movement against a background of some inclusive position, each bodily event . . . against a background of significance in which its remotest repercussions are at least foreshadowed and the possibility of an intersensory parity immediately furnished.” This applies equally to the body and the work of art.
19. Sigmund Freud, in The Ego and the Id, Standard Edition, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1961, 19:26–27, asserts that the ego “is first and foremost a body-ego,” that is, a “projection” of the body.
20. Adriani et al., p. 223.
21. Ibid., pp. 107–108.
22. Ibid., p. 56.
23. Ibid., pp. 39, 41.
24. In the 1964 action Das Schweigen von Marcel Duchamp wird überbewertet (The Silence of Marcel Duchamp is overestimated), Beuys criticized “Duchamp’s antiart concept and . . . his later conduct, when he gave up art and pursued only chess and writing.” He seemed to prefer Ingmar Bergman’s warm, vitalizing “interpretation of silence” in the film Silence to Duchamp’s cold interpretation of it as the death of art and death in general. Adriani et al., p. 119. Speaking of The Chief, 1956, a “Fluxus song” performed in Berlin by Beuys and simultaneously in New York by Robert Morris, Beuys compared his use of “childhood impressions and experiences [to] form an image and materials ”with Morris’ “merely minimal materials.” They relate, he said, to “vanity,” which Beuys’ “actions and methods have absolutely nothing to do with.” He in effect accused Morris of stealing materials from him without understanding their import: “It is clear what Morris had taken from me; he was here at that time and had worked in my studio.” Adriani et al., pp. 124–25. The reason Beuys dismissed Morris’ work, saying “the concept of minimal art means absolutely nothing to me,” is that Minimal art lacked his commitment to therapeutic process.
25. Adriani et al., pp. 229–30,
26. Ibid., p. 279.
27. The importance of skin, as an osmotic, dialectical border surface, signaling profound states of feeling—at once narcissistic and object relational—through texture and touch, is discussed by Didier Anzieu in The Skin Ego, New Haven: Yak University Press, 1989.
28. M. Masud R. Kahn, The Privacy of the Self, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1974, p. 15.