how to explain pictures to a dead hare, joseph beuys (1965).
at the beginning of the performance, Beuys locked the gallery doors from the inside, leaving the gallery-goers outside. they could observe the scene within only through the windows. with his head entirely coated in honey and gold leaf, he began to explain the pictures in the gallery to a dead hare. whispering to the dead animal on his arm in an apparent dialog, he processed through the exhibit from artwork to artwork. occasionally he would stop and return to the center of the gallery, where he stepped over a dead fir tree that lay on the floor. after three hours the public was let into the room. Beuys sat upon a stool in the entrance area with the hare on his arm and his back to the onlookers.
Infiltration-Homogen for Grand Piano is one of my favorite artworks. Beuys covered a Bechstein piano entirely with felt and two crosses of red material. This work was installed at Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris in 1966. Here is Beuys’ statement taken from Transformer, a documentary film directed by John Halpern in 1979:
"The sound of the piano trapped inside the felt skin. In the normal sense a piano is an instrument used to produce sound. When not in use it is in silent, but still has a sound potential. Here, no sound is possible and the piano is condemned to silence.
The relationship to the human position is marked by the two red crosses signifying emergency, the danger that threatens if we stay silent and fail to make the next evolutionary step.
Such an object is intended as a stimulus for discussion, and in no way it is it to be taken as an aesthetic product.”
I like America and America likes me, Joseph Beuys 1974
"I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote."
Beuys was a German avante-garde performance and avant garde artist, whose work forced viewers to question museums and view them naked and stripped. His work transformed museums from untouchable monuments to spaces of cultural experience - while also parodying and making political statements.
In I like America and America likes me, Beuys spent 5 days in a room without food or water living with an untamed coyote. The only other items in the room were a wool blanket, in which he swathed himself, and shredded articles from the Wall Street Journal. Beuys’ hope was that the coyote would use the WSJ shreds as a nest, but never explained his intended metaphor. One can only guess.