joseph beuys, pain space, 1983, currently installed at caixa forum, barcelona

from the accompanying installation pamphlet:

Joseph Beuys(Krefeld, 1921 – Düsseldorf, 1986) is one of the key artists of the second half of the twentieth century and the pioneer of new channels of artistic exploration, essential for the development of art today. His rhetoric is based on the belief in the universal power of human creation and the conviction that art can prompt revolutionary changes. Beuys stated that “every human being is an artist”, meaning that everyone should be able to develop his or her own creativity. A champion of the notion of Social Sculpture (whereby sculpture needs not produce objects, but rather act or communicate thoughts that shape people’s awareness), Beuys came up with the concept of “Extended Art”, with which he encouraged the integration of art and life to yield a state in which individuals can live in harmony with their social and natural surroundings.  Joseph Beuys presented the installation Hinter dem Knochen wird gezählt – Schmerzraumat the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Düsseldorf in 1983. He transformed the gallery space completely by covering the walls with lead. On the ceiling he placed a light bulb, which was lit, next to which there hung two slightly different sized silver rings.  Schmerzraumexemplifies Beuys’ interest in the metaphorical and symbolic connections between natural phenomena and philosophical systems.

The installation represents the reduction principle, secretiveness and isolation from the exterior.  Each element and each material in Beuys’ works has a meaning and specific connotation. In Schmerzraum, there are two opposing yet complementary materials. The first one is lead, which covers the whole space and as an insulating material cannot be penetrated by radiation. It also absorbs light and provides protection against external attack. The second one is silver, the material of the two rings that hang from the ceiling. One of these rings seems about the size of the skull of an adult and the other, slightly smaller, that of a child. Silver, the better conductor and the metal that best reflects the light, is delicate and malleable.  One of the possible interpretations of this installation, based on the relations and counterpoises established among the different elements, is that it refers to the biographies of people or, in other words, the lapse of time between birth and death. Schmerzraumis an interior space that calls for withdrawal, concentration, awareness or a reencounter with oneself. Such knowledge involves loneliness and distress, and the experience of pain. Only on the basis of this tough introspective exercise, of this being alone with oneself, of confronting and accepting oneself, and of this renewal, is it possible to open oneself up to the exterior, to others, and to become part of a social body.

Joseph Beuys. Hinter dem Knochen wird gezählt – Schmerzraum(Behind the bone is counted – Pain space), 1983. Lead panels, iron, rings of silver and light. 95 x 545 x 740 cm”

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