objet de desir
APPLICATIONS: ART OR STATEMENT?
PART TWO: STATEMENTS ABOUT THE WORLD IN GENERAL
STATEMENTS ABOUT ART
Below you will find applications to the art theory of Stefan Beyst
Ever more examples will be added until there is a complete overview of
the most important non-verbal statements about
the world that pose
for art itself.
Beuys CattelanEvaristti Malstaf Nitsch
Van Mechelen Vostell
WOLF VOSTELL (°1932-1998)
Under the auguries of
Fluxus, Wolf Vostell performed many 'Aktionen', as a rule
actions with a symbolic meaning. Thus he made 'Ruhender Verkehr' in 1868,
an Opel Kapitän hidden in a concrete block in the form of a car.
No doubt, this three-dimensional object is a rudimentary imitation, but
as imitation not interesting at all. The intention is rather to make a
non-verbal statement and to contest the increasing impact of traffic
which will finally lead to a total standstill. A statement about art,
hence, not art. The statement itself is a good example of the
visualisation of verbal expressions (soon on this website).
JOSEF BEUYS (1921-1986)
Beuys began his career as a sculptor and aquarellist. He soon
proceeded to making symbolic actions under the name of 'social
Some of them have a manifest political content like 'Fegen': the
cleaning of the Karl Marxs Platz after a manifestation, or the
planting of oaks -
'Beuysbäume'. From the piling up of basalt blocks on the Dokumenta in
Kassel, only the basalt blocks remain as a remembrance of the corpses
that one lay on the same place. Still other, rather ritual happenings or
installations, are to be understood in terms of Beuys' 'private
mythology' (motifs like the Eastern Hare, Eurasia,
copper and the like). Most of them survive under the form of the
props that remain after the happening.
Gradually, Beuys concentrates on the exhibition of objects that are
non-verbal symbols. Many of the installations of Beuys occupy entire
rooms, but there are also installations of a more modest scale. The
interpretation of all these installations is a hazardous undertaking,
that I leave to the Beuys-exegetes.
Some installations or assemblages of Beuys, however, are genuine
mimesis: think of 'Das
In all other cases, we are dealing with non-verbal statements. Although
many of them are also well-formulated, they do not belong in the Museum
for Fine Arts, but in the Library of Non-Verbal Statements, a still to
erect building, that surely will be of gigantic proportions...
Beuys with Rodin makes sense only when their aquarelles are compared.
There is worlds apart from the basalt blocks of Beuys to the sculptures
HERMANN NITSCH (°1938)
Hermann Nitsch is the high-priest of the 'Orgies Mysterien
Theater', a ritual that developed out of the 'Aktionen' of
the 'Wiener Aktionisten': The 'Aktionen' as well as the 'theatre' are
not theatre at all, but are mere symbolic actions, comparable with the
Just like with Beuys, many of these 'Aktionen' survive only in the props, which
are sold as art objects. They are art only in so far as they are
objects that conjure up the
For an exhaustive analyses of the work of Hermann Nitsch, see 'Hermann
Nitsch: the artist as a high priest?'
MAURIZIO CATTELAN (° 1960).
From the nineties onwards, Maurizio Cattelan has profiled himself as the
new jester of the Art World. A jester, however, who understands to
completely integrate himself in the Art System itself, wholly in the
vein of figures like Dali,
Manzoni, and Andy Warhol.
Many of his works are
non-verbal statements about art.
Other works of Maurizio Cattelan are non-verbal statements about the
world. In 1999, he showed a simulacrum of Mai Lin's Vietnam war memorial
in Washington DC, where the names of dead GIs were replaced with the
score of every defeat of the English national football team. In
2001, during the Venice Biennale, he erected a full sized HOLLYWOOD sign over the
largest rubbish tip on Palermo, Sicily. 'Now' (2004), with John F.
Kennedy lying in a coffin, is meant as a commentary on the state of
American politics today. Frank & Jamie (2002), two policemen upside
down, is purported to be an inverted image of power
Still other works - although merely wax figures or stuffed animals or
skeletons- are genuine
EVARISTTI MARCO (°1963 Santiago, Chile),
In 'Ice Cube Project' (2004), Evaristti painted the tip of a
small iceberg red. On occasion of his 'Mount Rouge Project' (2007)
Evaristti was arrested while trying draped the peak of Mont Blanc with
red fabric as a protest against global warming. These works are not art
but non-verbal statements about the world. In other works of Evaristti,
we are dealing with
KOEN VANMECHELEN (°1965)
From 2000 onward,
Koen Vanmechelen makes a furore with his project 'The cosmopolitan chicken'.
The intention is to reconstruct the 'cosmopolitan chicken' through
cross-breeding the most diverse races of chicken, as a kind of symbol for
the realisation of a world where people would live peacefully together.
One can harbour some doubts about such a method of making peace. Apart
from that, we are not dealing here with mimesis, but with a symbolic
action, comparable with the freeing of a peace dove by the pope on Saint
Peter's Square in Rome.
LAWRENCE MALSTAF (°1972)
is renown for his installations that belong to
displayed reality or to
In other works, Lawrence Malstaf makes non-verbal statements, as in
'Sand Bible' (2000): a Bible from which an opening is
cut which is filled with sand. That should be a criticism of 'the transience of
established norms and values that are hammered in our brains'.
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Referrers: Goncourt's Blog