GP: Do you think that Marx would have agreed with your point of view and that Marxism can help in realizing your proposals, which are so very individual?
JB: No. I think that Marxism is a very good starting point but I find more and more that the genius
of Marx was to analyze the situation. He was unable to give concise advice to the people to make
the revolution. His analysis was very general and we need this science of Marx, but we have to see that the position to make a revolution is not in Marx’s work. We find briefly some intention in
this position of freedom in the younger Marx; there the idea of freedom had some position. But
more and more he came to the revolutionary concept of making new structures in economics, new information, economics as revolutionary power. Therefore, for me, it seems very false. Marx did not cultivate the idea of freedom, he cultivated the idea of democracy and socialism, but he forgot to speak about freedom as a revolutionary power and that was false.
I find more and more that I’m not alone in this position, because freedom, creativity, is the only
revolutionary power. This is my model of freedom as a revolution.
GP: In Paris, in May 1968, many students cried out for an art and culture outside of the official
framework, for it to leave the museums and institutions and be brought out into the streets…
JB: Yes, that is why I do my art in the streets, but now because I cannot do anything in the streets I have come here to Documenta. My presence here is much more effective. Normally I work in the street, but not only in the street. We have houses, institutions, and we have to work in the places where we are. For instance, I am a teacher in an institution. It’s a very old institution and I’m trying to change this very old institution into a new institution but I think to do it I have to work in the street with art and speak to the people about the possibility of art, science and creativity, and therefore the self-destination of the people. To realize the possibility of self-destination coming out from their own possibility of creativity on all levels. We don’t have to wait for the point when creativity is on a very high level. Creativity can begin on a very low level. Everyone can work with the level they have at that particular moment. And when all people work together with the levels they have, then I think all people are able to be creative, not only artists. Workers are able, yes, housewives are able, too. I think most people are intelligent, perhaps too intelligent. Therefore I say “Der Mensch is das Kreative Wesen” (Man is the Creative Being). I think people are only interested in intelligence and not in the powers that they have for feeling, for feeling with other people together. That’s another way of creativity, to develop feeling. Another point is to develop the will, the uprising will in the people and all these abilities you find everywhere. You don’t find ability or capacity in a museum or in a street or in a special show. I can only say I work in the street, too.
GP: What is the next step in your work?
JB: I have a special aim: to establish a new international free school for creativity and interdisciplinary research. And the model for me is to have the educational level at all times equal with the presentational level. What we could do is discuss and work on all pedagogical problems on the school level in contact with the presentational level of creative productions of all kinds, internationally and permanently. So we could deal with the school problems, education problems,
and permanently show, for instance, the creativity of the Chinese people and then the creativity
of the Hungarian people, and Scandinavian people, English people, French people, then German people, special groups from Germany, Italy. During the permanence we would have an equality in all things because every group can present their kind of production. My idea is on these two levels, the education and the school problems and then the international presentation of all kinds of production, to make it visible.
GP: If art is life then you no longer need producers, then an art by artists is dead or dying.
JB: Yes we need production as a special end of creativity, you see. The point of creativity begins
in life as thinking, yes? That’s the first production, thinking. The next production is language;
you have to express your ideas from thinking. That’s the second stage of production, speaking,
and perhaps writing. That’s a production people can look for and that’s what we need. We have
to make a visualization of the production and perhaps more; we have to make it tactile from
time to time. For instance, the outcome of creativity has been better machines for society,
better means of traffic, for instance. We need all these realities in objects, not only in art, in
technology. Therefore I’m interested in speaking not only in the abstract about this creativity
but as life in general. But I think there is a difference between the beginning of the creativity
and the products that are the products of all times: art, science. We have to show people
the production, that is my meaning, so that all people can consider and control.
Art is important to destroy the old features; mankind is suffering with these old features of
society. Therefore the duty of art is to destroy the old features by making new forms for society,
GP: But this is a new form within an old society.
JB: Yes, surely, and therefore I have my political bureau, because the objects are no longer
able to change society. The bureau is an object too, and it is necessary to work with these objects to change the old features of society. Like you say, the features of art at the moment are not capable of changing.
Giancarlo Politi is the editor and publisher of Flash Art.
Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1921. He died in Düsseldorf in 1986.
This is an excerpt from an unpublished interview conducted in July, 1972, on the occasion of Documenta 5.