this issue contains
>> Joseph Beuys and his students
>> Vik Muniz: Art in the Favelas
>> Ayse Erkmen's Interventions
>> German Pop Art: Thomas Bayrle

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Joseph Beuys, University of Minneapolis, Fragment 3, 1974, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
Deutsche Bank Collection

This is also evidenced in his Minneapolis Fragments, a series made in 1974 on the occasion of a lecture he gave at the university there. The fleeting drawings, words, and diagrams lend immediate visual form to Beuys’ teaching as a process in flux that sets discussions and thought processes into motion. "Everyone should pursue their intentions and pose questions to attain clarity." The professor seldom gave his students concrete assignments. Instead, it was a matter of finding one’s own personal content, one’s goals, and the paths one needed to take to attain them. He became directly involved only after his students presented him with the results.

Walter Dahn, Goldzeichnungen, 1976,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Beuys’ group critiques were legendary—and anticipated with fear. "Beuys was very strict and very definite," recalls Walter Dahn. "More than anyone else, he delivered clear and definitive judgments concerning the works presented to him. And they really hit home." His interventions sometimes led to the destruction of the work. He ripped up drawings or chopped up his students’ sculptures with an axe, which he declared to be a "sculptural act." For Jörg Immendorff, Beuys’ judgments were absolute. "It was like a stamp of quality." And whatever the professor didn’t like was quite simply painted over.

Jörg Immendorff, Freitag, 16.7., 1976, ©Jörg Immendorff, Courtesy Galerie Michael Werner, Köln/New York,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Although Beuys was skeptical of Immendorff’s Maoism-influenced imagery and of the medium of painting in general, he encouraged him to find new ways of seeing things. For instance, the realization that "painting has a processual aspect to it" was like an "eye opener" to the artist. But Beuys’ actions also influenced his work. Immendorff’s own actions with the LIDL supermarket in the late sixties also aimed at social transformation. Featuring slogans like "Serve the People," it was an art form that would support the sixties revolts. The Biennale series (1976) in Ahlen still exudes the spirit of the times; Immendorff recorded the events of the week in journal-like form. Protest march on Thursday; poster action on the Biennale and a conspiratorial meeting on Friday: agitprop in the wall newspaper style.

Katharina Sieverding, ID/IV, 1992, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
Deutsche Bank Collection

Immendorff’s provocative actions eventually led to his dismissal from the academy in 1969. And Beuys also had serious conflicts with the academy’s authorities. Because limiting study ran counter to his ideas, in 1971 he accepted all 142 students into his class that had been rejected by the academy, a decision the Ministry of Science outright rejected. In response, Beuys and his students occupied the academy’s offices. In a talk with the minister Johannes Rau, he won his case and the art academy formally accepted the applicants. But when Beuys once again occupied the offices with rejected students the next year, the minister fired him without notice.

Anselm Kiefer, Grab des unbekannten Malers, 1982, © Anselm Kiefer,
Deutsche Ban k Collection

In a 1969 interview with the American art magazine Artforum, Beuys declared: "To be a teacher is my greatest work of art." During his time at the Dusseldorf Art Academy, he taught over 300 students, leaving his mark on an entire generation of artists. Although the charismatic professor’s influence on his students was immense, they did not develop into epigones. Traces of Beuys’ works can nonetheless be detected in their works, as in a sensibility for "poor" materials in the works of Ulrich Meister and Felix Droese, who like Beuys was involved with ecology early on. And while Anselm Kiefer’s investigation into cosmic mythology is clearly influenced by his teacher, Katharine Sieverding carries on Beuys’ criticism of the materialistic concept of science in her photographic series, for example Kontinentalkern. To Sieverding, Beuys embodied an ideal because he was "always there for his students, always challenging them and expecting achievement. You couldn’t find a better example of a teacher."

Joseph Beuys, Iphigenie/Titus, 1985, © VG Bild – Kunst, Bonn 2008,
Deutsche Bank Collection

The quotes are translated from Petra Richter’s book Mit, neben, gegen – Die Schüler von Joseph Beuys, Richter Verlag, Dusseldorf 2000.

“To be a teacher is my greatest work of art” – Joseph Beuys and his students.
Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection
Kunstmuseum Ahlen
through November 23, 2008

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