Text from the film made by BABETH MONDINI-VANLOO
Joseph Beuys speaking:
“When I say that everyone is an artist, I’m referring to an art that one could call social art, a new discipline of art. But as a new discipline it’s so big that it comprises every historical development that has been passed on to us as modern art, or whatever art movement, from the past. So social art, this new kind of development of art, does not exclude anything from the past, like modern art.
But this expanded notion of art, this new concept of art, which relates to all people and to their creativity, the capacity that exists in everyone as a free creative power, should really be called an anthropological art.
As it relates to people’s capacity in all areas of work, the concept relates to people’s work. And as it refers to people’s work it means that we are at home in all places of work within society, with this notion of art. And mainly of course, in those places of labor where the largest number of people produce things, in large working collectives, for example, in the industrial sector.
So we have a concept of art that clearly incorporates that of economy.
So we have a spiritual concept, for art is a spiritual concept and, as we’ve said but not proven, since for that we would need a full seminar, this spiritual concept is interlocked with the concept of economy.
This changes the concept of economy in such a way that it in it’s turn extends into the field of art. So here we have the integration of two different concepts but also realities in the field of human labor, that are easily separated in our consciousness, but that actually belong together in the reality of human labor. So we have an expanded notion of art that absolutely cannot ignore the question of economy. We are talking about human labor.
We have, as I said before, developed two concepts, two actually existing realities that are of decisive importance for human production and economy
and that could be called the real capital of humanity: The human capacity and what results from this potential. In other words, what people make,
what people create: let’s call it their products.
Next the democratic principles:
Even if it has been established what the elemental realities and concepts
represent in terms of capital, we yet have to determine how, in a highly complex society that we happen to live in, and which is very interwoven,
interconnected, worldwide as a world economy, has a total division of labor. A total division of labor on the production side in the sphere of production, and a total dependence on others on the side of the consumers. So that no one can be self-reliant anymore, but everyone has to live from the labor of others. From this point of view, the social imperative is obvious. There must be a regulating principle!
All this work has to be based on reciprocity and with respect for the other, which was the requirement of fundamental democratic principles. This is contained in the demand that a new regulating principle is required.
The question is whether what we now call money and what is also called capital, is able to bring about such democratic justice. I’m anticipating again, but let me say this: What one refers to as capital when speaking of money,
since money is an economic value together with other economic values, and privileges of ownership of land, and means of productions etcetera, shouldn’t they be subsumed under the democratic legal order, so that through society’s regulative principle for money and society’s means of organization, the democratic question should be raised to an objective basis.
Our political processes are, for example, really much more unjust than the possibility a consumer has today who can say: ‘I buy these flowers here.’ Another one buys shoes over there; a third one buys a pair of trousers, and everyone gets what they want. So our economic life is far ahead of our political praxis where political decisions by vote for political parties can cause large minorities to be outvoted by a majority. If a political party wins with 60 percent during democratic elections 40 percent of the people are outvoted, which is experienced as an injustice. And I also don’t think it’s an answer to the question of democracy.
So as we have seen, the economic process, the organic result of human endeavor in terms of thinking, developing capacities and transforming nature, resulting in products, can actually be brought about more readily by a social praxis than by what one today calls parliamentarianism. The concept of political parties in Western democracies or, one could say, sham democracies, and that of the corresponding parliamentarianism.
So we see if we look at the matter without prejudice, that the economic forces, if left to correct principles would be able to solve the problem of democracy sooner. But only if in the future we will be able to transfer the concept of capital, the true value of money, to the sphere of law. In other words, democratizing the world of finance: Democratization of money, rather than monopolization of capital.
Such a concept of the social work of art refers back to the original idea that was already developed at the very beginning of philosophy of aesthetics,
when the three concepts of aesthetics, truth, beauty and virtue were explained by people like Baumgartner, but also by Goetheanism and finally also by the ‘Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man’ by Friedrich Schiller.
So we return to a point that already since the beginning when aesthetical thought first developed, was already an epistemological question. As precursor of a very distant future, so that one could say: An aesthetic such as Schiller developed presupposes a level of consciousness we have not attained yet. But which we can, and should attain, in my opinion.
But this great leap for an anthropological aesthetic, as one might call it, that takes creativity as a freedom everyone possesses, also still allows you to consider the specific aesthetics of painting, of composition, of images, the iconographic dimension and so on. Of paint application and so forth.
Of course, when working in a specific discipline in a circumscribed area, one can and has to work according to the highest criteria.
Thus, an expanded concept of art does by no means stand in opposition to a traditional one. Though one must say that there are two concepts here, of which one has to be called traditional. While the other one appears as a novelty in the human consciousness.
Working with social material does not lead to images right away. It can lead to images, and it should lead to images, but in the beginning it is working with invisible materials. That means working with relations between people, with people’s interactions, with constructing new concepts and language.
That means people understanding each other, in dialogue. Doing all these activities in more flexible materials than those used in the fine arts.
These materials are really a kind of software within the Social Sculpture.
And in this case software really refers towards something quite spiritual.
This kind of software and this work in social material can also be continued after one’s death, and be implemented before birth. I like to say that in this case, one is really working in the context of the Invisible Sculpture.”