Artists fighting for democracy: Joseph Beuys

by Dominika Karc

11-Joseph-BeuysThe battle for an art being “exclusive and for elites” vs “ for everybody” is longer than it may seem. 

History knows examples about artists fighting for art democratization. Joseph Beuys once said that “ Every human being is an artist”. He clearly understood that art is made and  belongs to society. He also wanted real access to development for any artist. So as a teacher in The Düsseldorf Academy of Art he opened his classes for anyone who wanted to attempt. This attitude unfortunately cost him his job. But shows also how strong his statement was. 

In response, Beuys set up his own Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research. This new institution had “no charges for participation, no restrictive admission policies, complete autonomy from the state and an interdisciplinary curriculum based on the idea that creativity permeates all aspects of human endeavour,” writes Allan Antliff

Beuys was spreading the knowledge using lectures, classes, films and discussions. He was maximizing the way of education. 

Joseph Beuys in his battle for democratization was  using  not only his position as a teacher but also art itself. In 1972 performed ‘Boxkampf für die direkte Demokratie’. In London’s Waddington Custot gallery. Beus was boxing with David Christian, a local student. Beuys was representing “direct democracy” and Christian “representative government‘.  Beuys won after three rounds.

Thankfully ODBK doesn’t have to organize box sparring to fight for an art democracy. But no doubts our spirit is as strong as Joseph’s Beuys!