Trailer Watch: Beuys
A German fighter pilot shot down over Crimea, rescued by nomadic tribesmen. A chronically depressed veteran, in near total isolation in the wilderness. A difficult pupil turned iconoclast pedagogue. Whether apocrypha or self-imposed legend, all these identities defined the persona of artist Joseph Beuys, arguably one of the most relevant and revolutionary forces in modern and post-modern art in the 20th century. A former soldier of the Third Reich, rehabilitated through a lifelong commitment to innovation, Beuys redefined the artist’s role in society as the ultimate act of public penance.
From renowned pieces such as “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” (featuring the artist painted in gold leaf, cradling the titular corpse in his arms, whispering to it), and “I Like Amerika and America Likes Me” (where Beuys performed in a locked room with a wild coyote, blanket and a shepherd’s staff), to lesser known, perhaps even more powerful public arts projects such as “7000” Oaks (where Beuys and a veritable army of volunteers planted the eponymous forest trees over the course of five years, a project completed posthumously) — Beuys engaged with the concepts of the artist as activist, autodidact, agent of change, and shaman with a self- possessed fury that can best be described as a life lived as Gesamtkunstwerk, a universal, absolute synthesis of artwork. Equal parts reviled and revered, he was a progenitor of the modern notion of what it means to live as a creator on your own terms.
Released by Kino-Lorber after premiering at last year’s Berlin Film Festival, Andres Veiel’s largely archival documentary, Beuys, on the man and his work is one for the ages, and not to be missed. It’s currently playing at Film Forum in New York through the 30th.