During my studies in Art College (NCAD, where I did a joint degree in Fine Art and Art History if you are curious!) I encountered the powerful figure of German Artist Joseph Beuys. During the second world war, Beuys was a pilot and his plane was shot down. The Felt and Fat that was used to bring him back to life when he was rescued by native peoples of the Tundra region became part of his mythology – he passionately believed in the Healing power of Art. For him Art was also Social Sculpture and performance, there was something vital in the creative process that, when encountered collectively, could be a catalyst for profound change. On a practical level, Beuys also addressed the environmental crisis, examples of this include his famous 7000 Oaks project in Germany and his political presence as part of the Green Party. He also released a fun pop song playing on the name of (Ronald) Regen and the German word for Rain, Regen.
During his time in Ireland, Beuys was deeply drawn to the energies of the land, and to the symbolism of neolithic artworks – he held that Ireland was the place to heal the world.
The resonant field of this discourse was explored, deepened and developed during the Cork Caucus project of 2005( when Cork city was European Capital of Culture) which I was part of – the brain child of a dynamic duo, Dobz “O Brien and Fergal Gaynor. I had just finished my studies the year before and had been commissioned to attend the event as writer in residence. It was exciting being a part of this melting pot of socially engaged artists such as Phil Collins, Ibon Arranberri, Kunci from Indonesia, radical political theorists like Chantal Mouffe, local activists, art historians… it was a rare meeting of minds and the subtitle was “ Democracy and Social Change – on the grounds of art“.
What was most evident and valuable however, was that liminal space, that soft edge that allowed people to enjoy relaxed conversations and explore ideas – the social power of bringing purposeful people and projects together.
The work of Joseph Beuys however was a key uniting theme of the gathering – and this prospect of Healing, of Social Transformation on the grounds of Art ( or creativity). Joseph Beuys held that “everyone is an artist“. A lot has been written about the Shamanic or spiritual aspects of Beuys Art.
His performance “coyote“ where he arrived in America in an ambulance and spent about a week inside an art gallery white room with a wild coyote – evoking that vision of Wild America and the totemic role of coyote in Native American lore, while also the emergency the immanence of that colonial wound: so hidden now as so much psychic suffering of a systemic order has become – the claims to authority of a dominant cultural detritus blinding our vision.
Ireland Can Heal the World!
Ireland Can Heal the World!
How does that feel?
It feels like stepping up out of Victim and moving through all the trauma.
It feels like standing upon ground, in the ground of our being – standing behind rather than below: STANDING UP.