Sunday, 3 April 2011

Joseph Beuys - How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare

Performance - 1965
How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare was performed as part of his first solo exhibition in November 1965. The audience watched the performance from the outside of the gallery through its large store front window.

With his face covered in honey and gold leaf Beuys cradled a dead hare in his arms and whispered quietly to it about the drawings on the walls of the gallery. Well known as regarding him self as a shamanic figure, Beuy's work is dense with material and symbolic references. For example the honey is to represent the bee as being part of an ideal society of co-operation and brotherhood, whilst the gold is to connect himself to a masculine principle of strength and a synergy with earth.

 “Gold and honey indicate a transformation of the head, and therefore, naturally and logically, the brain and our understanding of thought, consciousness and all the other levels necessary to explain pictures to a hare... The idea of explaining to an animal conveys a sense of the secrecy of the world and of existence that appeals to the imagination. Then, as I said, even a dead animal preserves more powers of intuition than some human beings with their stubborn rationality. “The problem lies in the word ‘understanding’ and its many levels which cannot be restricted to rational analysis. Imagination, inspiration, and longing all lead people to sense that these other levels also play a part in understanding. This must be the root of reactions to this action, and is why my technique has been to try and seek out the energy points in the human power field, rather than demanding specific knowledge or reactions on then part of the public. I try to bring to light the complexity of creative areas."