Key Artwork: I Like America and America Likes Me “COYOTE” – Joseph Beuys, “DINGO” – Andre Stitt

Joseph Beuys (born 1921) was brought up during the war. He came part of the Hitler youth and took part in the Nuremberg Rally. In 1941 he volunteered for the German Air force and it was actually around this time that he seriously considered becoming an artist. He had a crash in one of the aircraft’s in 1943 and famously told how he was rescued by tribesmen who used fat and felt to warm and heal him. Consequently, Two of the main materials used in his art work are Fat and Felt. These materials are seen in his pieces ‘The Chair’ (1964-95) and ‘The Chief’ (1964).

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 Beuys was heavily influenced by the Rudolf Steiner who created a new spiritual movement where he tried to combine science and spirituality.Following the war Beuys decided to study sculpture after which he took up teaching. In his piece ‘How to Explain Images to a Dead Hare’ (1965), Beuys has used materials such as Bees, hares, Fat, Honey and Gold to represent his feelings and artistic Ideas. The Bees represent an ideal society, the Hare comes from Irish superstition that anyone who harms a Hare will suffer and the iron shows a connection to the earth.

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Beuys has used art as a release to help him deal with the memories of war-time. Seen in his piece “Auschwitz Demonstration.” He has also challenged what art is and pushed boundaries. He signed lots of bananas and called them art which encouraged people to think about What art means. Does Art change society? Does Art change you  as a person? Is Art useless? Does art change you as a person? Is it a release? Do many people not understand Art? Can Art give you a sense of the Artists personality? This is highly relevant to today’s art world as artists are constantly trying to push the boundaries of what art is.

Andre Stitt became very inspired by the performance work of Joseph Beuys, particularly Beuy’s performance “I lIke America and America likes me” also known as ‘Coyote’ from 1974. In this performance, Beuys spends 3 days sharing a room with a wild coyote, this piece looks at time and the relationship between the Coyote and the artist.

Stitt says: “If it’s an artwork it is haunted by the idea of a document, if it’s a document its haunted by the idea of the artwork”. With this in mind, Stitt decided to create his own piece entitled ‘Dingo’ in which he uses very similar ideas and makes a response to “Coyote”.

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When we view art and performance art we feel various emotions which inevitably change our lives in come way or another, in that we had that experience and it is now part of us. “The best performance art occurs what subjects or images are wrenched out of context using unexpected, destabilizing or unfamiliar methods and materials. They challenge the spectator’s preconceptions” – Stitt. Performance is almost anti art market. It cannot be bought like a painting it just leaves memories in the mind of the viewer.

At the end of this Lecture, Andre Stitt was asked if he feels his work is about Loss. He replied: “Isn’t everybody’s?”
What are you going through when making art? or when you look at the work of others? “As you get old, I feel you experience Loss more”. Does making art make you feel immortal? “The Idea that a painting could be in a gallery long after you die could give you a sense of immortality”.

Joseph Beuys is very human and full of contradiction which is what Stitt likes about him. Being a human being makes us full of opinion. Beuys really is quite revolutionary and there are countless artists influenced by Beuy’s Legacy.

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