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Joseph Beuys

Ölflasche, 1984

Multiple | Bottle of oil olive, with printed label
26 cm

The relationship of the human being with nature is one of the central questions in the thought of Joseph Beuys. From 1971 on Beuys was a frequent visitor to Italy, where he developed the project DIFESA DELLA NATURA, his proposal for the emergence of a new culture in which art was to become an everyday act that went beyond the artistic context. The gallery space run by Lucrezia De Domizio and Giuseppe Durini in Pescara provided Beuys with the opportunity to experiment with different systems of agricultural cultivation – he saw agriculture as linked to the centrality of the human being liberated from all ideology of power – and to pursue this investigation of the truth through his own presence in nature. At Pescara he organized encounters, actions and debates as forms of collaborative practice, of betterment and defence. Between 1971 and 1985, Beuys carried out a series of works associated with the Difesa della Naturaproject, articulated in the following actions: Encounter with Beuys (1974), Grassello (1979), Piantagioni (1984), Olivestone (1984) and Unfinished Projects (1985).

Encounter with Beuys (1974) is a debate in which the artist posits nature as possessing an infinite, continuous, linear time and space and a terrestrial physicality that cannot be different from or far removed from a curved, infinite, continuous and linear cosmic spirituality. In this context, he puts forward the notions of free creativity and the expanded concept of art, linked to the belief in the universal power of human creativity and the conviction that art can bring about revolutionary change. In Grassello (1979) Beuys used slaked lime (grassello) to restore his house and studio in Germany, and synthesized the reaction of the Italian material on coming into contact with German water in the formula Ca(OH)2+ H2O. The essence of the work is the journey of the material from Pescara to Düsseldorf, a process documented photographically by Durini. Piantagioni(1984) was a collaborative project combining agricultural wisdom and the ecological function of plants, organized for human purposes, which resulted in the planting of 7000 oaksin Kassel. Olivestone (1984) consists of a sculpture made from fivestone vats used by the Durini family since the sixteenth century to decant and purify olive oil. Beuys created larger stone cuboids, placed the vats inside them and filled them with 200 litres of oil from the Durini estate. As in communicating vessels, the oil seeps through the sculpture, producing a reflecting mirror effect. Olivestonecombines plant and mineral elements, the solid and the liquid, feminine and masculine aspects, chaos and order, utility and aesthetics.

 From this starting point various elements, including multiples in limited and unlimited editions such as cases of wine and bottles of olive oil, graphic material, stamps, documents and so on are the material means of disseminating these ideas of Beuys in this great project holistic conceived with a view to liberating the Western world from its materialism and achieving a social harmony based on direct democracy and mutual solidarity, irrespective of people’s economic, religious or political status.

Montse Badia


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