middle of the age

09Jun10

Joseph Beuys
‘Untitled (Sun State)’
1974

After the pleasure of hearing this guy speak and watching this, I’m thinking a lot about time perception. I was already noticing an inner shift lately when thinking of what is ancient and what is current. I can hang it all like a felt hat on Joseph Beuys.

I used to despair, strangely enough, when I would see or read about Beuys work, because it seemed so ahead of its time, and I couldn’t see much that had exceeded his vision. He feels, to me, like he could be a contemporary artist. The same thing happens when I listen to later Beatles music. It just doesn’t sound outdated. The strange thing that’s happening to me as I get older is that Beuys and the Beatles are beginning to feel like they actually are my contemporaries.

Joseph Beuys
‘Schwangere und Schwan (Pregnant Woman with Swan)’
1959

The cultural world, contrary to popular myth, doesn’t reinvent itself every ten years. Yes, we change and grow and make new things… our technological advances allow different possibilities… but we are so solidly riding on the shoulders of our most direct artistic predecessors. My grandmother is 97 years old. That means she lived through both World Wars and all of the major movements in Modern Art history. She remembers riding in a carriage without a horse (!) for the first time. With a living connection to the arc of the 20th century, it makes the whole century seem like my century. So much of what I assume about culture grows directly from the 1900s as a whole (and, especially, post-WW2, which perhaps does mark a genuine shift in human perception).

Joseph Beuys
‘Sled’
1969

{Beuys images via this blog, which also contains more description of the work}

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