Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965

From Joseph Beuys and The Body:

In ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’, Beuys cradled a dead hare lovingly in his arms for three hours, walking it around and showing his drawings to it whilst explaining them to it in an inaudible whisper. The hare symbolises birth for Beuys because it is born and burrows underground, later to emerge from the earth. The effect of Beuys’ body in the action is terribly important, the presence of a human being is difficult to ignore, especially as his head was covered in honey and gold leaf. The reaction would be far more different if Beuys had had his hare for example, reading about art from a book. The pictures on the walls, surrounding Beuys and the hare, are impossible to see all at once, and we realise that this is not so much about Beuys and a hare as it is about our own bodies, how we physically find ourselves in the world and how we relate to it. The problem of understanding and thus also of explaining is relevant to everyone.

In black and white, the harsh contrast of photographs of Beuys with his head covered in honey and gold leaf during the action are evocative of severe facial disfigurement reminiscent of Henry Tonks’ ‘Studies of Facial Wounds’ from the First World War. “By putting honey on my head I am clearly doing something involved with thinking”, Beuys said. The image of the man made mute by his thinking, his over-rationalisation, is deeply unsettling. Perhaps this serves to emphasise Beuys’ opinion that western society is too rational. Beuys claimed he preferred to explain pictures to a dead hare than to other people. He said, “A Hare comprehends more than many human beings with their stubborn rationalism ...I told him that he needed only to scan the picture to understand what is really important about it”.
If you thought Beuys honey-and-gold-covered face was too gruesome for sweet ol' Easter, just be glad I didn't put up a picture of what punk/performance art group The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black did with colored eggs. Or a video.

Also, let me be clear that while I am shaky on the whole Jesus thing, I am unwavering in my support of the Easter Bunny.

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