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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 sculptures'. 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 assembla
ges of Beuys, however, are genuine mimesis: think of 'Das Rudel'.

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 Statement
s, a still to erect building, that surely will be of gigantic proportions...

To confront Beuys with Rodin makes sense only when their aquarelles are compared. There is worlds apart from the basalt blocks of Beuys to the sculptures of Rodin...


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, comparab
le with the mass.

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 concomitant representations.

For an exhaustive analyses of the work of Hermann Nitsch, see 'Hermann Nitsch: the artist as a high priest?'


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 sculptures.

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 displayed reality.


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 is renown for his installations that belong to displayed reality or to spatial design.

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'.

© Stefan Beyst, 2005/2006

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