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“Economic Values”

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Beuys_economic_values_1From the current Joseph Beuys exhibit at the Tate Modern. This one is "Wirtschaftswerte" or "Economic Values."

From the museum’s website on this piece:

Economic Values 1980

Metal shelves are stacked with packets of foodstuffs and other basic products purchased in the former German Democratic Republic.
Over time the packaging has deteriorated, and the food has disintegrated. On the walls are a group of nineteenth-century paintings from the Tate’s Collection, their dates loosely corresponding to the
period of Karl Marx’s life (1818-1883). Each time the installation  is displayed the paintings are different as they are drawn from the host museum’s own collection. Beuys requested that they should be presented in gold frames as an expression of bourgeois taste. They provide a deliberately provocative contrast to the humble
products on the shelves.

Not only have the products on the shelves changed physically over
time, the political, social and economic context in which Economic Values was created has also altered. When Beuys made the work,
Communism was a major political force and the Berlin Wall divided East and West Germany. These goods from the East were the products
   of an anti-capitalist economy, and for Beuys, represented a simplicity and authenticity that reminded him of his childhood. According to  Beuys, the inner needs of a human being should be met first through the ‘production of spiritual goods’ in the form of ideas, art, and education, rather than in commodities. ‘We do not need all that we are meant to buy today to satisfy profit-based private capitalism,’ he said.

The deterioration of this sculpture over time was something Beuys intended. Indeed he welcomed change in his materials, linking it to the process of regeneration and change he believed society needed to undergo. ‘My sculpture is not fixed and finished. Processes
continue in most of them: chemical reactions, fermentations, colour
           changes, decay, drying up. Everything is in a state of change.’


I love the part about the old paintings from each museum’s own collection. Terrific.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 17, 2005 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Art

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