Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beuys: Coyote Crazy

{photo via FFFound}

I remember learning about Joseph Beuys in my contemporary art class in undergraduate. Beuys was a performance artist associated with the Fluxus movement in the 60's and 70's, and he did crazy stuff like locking himself in a room all day with a wild coyote, his only protection being a blanket and a wood cane. Sometimes the coyote would become aggressive...sometimes they just peacefully hung out. I remember thinking: OK, I can appreciate a lot of stuff, but this is just ridiculous...this is my limit of appreciation.

I have a degree in aesthetic studies now, and consider myself an art-lover with varied and broad tastes. But, I still cannot get past the idea of locking yourself in a room with a wild animal and expecting people to take you seriously. The one form of art I have never been able to come to terms with is performance art (*boo* *hiss* from the audience}. I just have this primitive, gut reaction to it: LAUGHTER. I had a colleague when I worked in New York that always tried to get me accompany her to performance art shows, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't want to make her feel bad or degrade what she liked by turning her down, but I also didn't want to go and mortify her by laughing so hard that I snorted the free wine up my nose. I'm quite glad I never went with her, because she told me on one occasion that a performer had stuck a light bulb up her hoo-ha. But, I digress.

My point is: Do you ever feel this about something -- that you're supposed to like it but you just can't? What do you do? Do you just laugh unapologetically, or do you try and force yourself into appreciation?? What are your limits?


Shelby Shelberson said...

As a man who is vaguely sure there was a recent World Series but doesn't know who won or even played in it, yeah, I can relate. Whether it's that hot new band, performance art, or athletic sporting competitions, it can be more embarrassing to not like something you're expected to like than the reverse. We really revel in our "guilty pleasures." We might say we're embarrassed to love Abba or trashy soap operas, but really, we love this about ourselves. This is why we're different, unique. So why isn't the same true about what we don't like? I think it has something to do with "getting it." When we love something that no one else does we say to ourselves, "Oh, they don't get it." But to stand up and say I think baseball is boring and pointless, I'm afraid will just have the rest of the world saying, "Oh, poor thing, it's not his fault, he just doesn't get it." When I barely know the guys asking me if I saw the big game I usually do my best to pretend I know what I'm talking about. But just like with everything that really matters in life, to those people I care about I can be honest and without reservation give them a raspberry and say, "YOU don't get it."

Shallow Mallow said...

There's a certain unfocues quality to my face while I do the polite smile and my eyes glaze over. I am not very good at keeping my feelings off my face.

Must admit, it's rare performance art gets me excited.

If we were all inspired by the same things this would be one bland planet.

Jill said...

I so agree...Laughter. I unfortunately have embarrassed myself before. What's worse, I caused other people to laugh too. It was awful.

This pic immediately reminded me of the Abu Ghraib pic.

Anonymous said...

um, pretty much all the time. i love art and creativity and originality and beauty, but some art is CRAZY and i'm often left feeling like i should take art more seriously or i just don't get it!

other things i laugh at that people might think i shouldn't:
the guy who leads my yoga class, energy/spirituality talk, PARENTING DISCUSSIONS, the military/ veteran worship, fads, fashion, films (i get in trouble for this one ALL the time), literature, POETRY, my daughter talking about participating in the school talent show, oh god the list could go on FOREVER!

but it's all about my mood because i do yoga every week, i love me some poetry, i LOVE my child pretty much doing anything...

Kim said...

I don't like rollerskating. I guess I look like the kind of lady who would love it because I'm always being invited to rollerskating parties but I just don't like rollerskating!

Anonymous said...

I studied art history and loved it. I do have to add that some things regarding art is ridiculous, but I guess at least you have to give them an A for effort. You and A for craziness. :)

Sam said...

Apologies but I think he's an incredible incredible man - his history and how he connected with felt and wood and etc - very deeply spiritual - one of my faves for performance, instalations and conceptual art...but! Having said that - I totally know where of you come from - I get quite irritated on a regular basis with some of the exhibitions I go to - I get quite rapid and indignant!!!

Have a lovely weekend and thank you for the links above - love your blog - you are always so thought provoking! Thank you! XX

{Tara} said...

shelby -- The idea of the raspberry pretty much sums up what I feel like doing to people when they assume I just haven't given something enough thought to appreciate it [i.e. football, sound poetry, and performance art]. But, then again, when it comes to certain other things, like literature, or fashion, or vintage...I probably tend to do the same thing to people who turn up their noses!

shallow mallow -- no kidding! Individual inspiration is such a quirky, mysterious thing.

jill -- Yes, I have had the tendency to laugh inappropriately and then get others in trouble, too!

okiefem -- I think being a parent, you must have to deal with this SO MUCH! Learning to pretend you like something for the sake of your child certainly must have its moments of hilarity.

kim -- You don't like rollerskating!! That's just crazy -- you just don't understand how cool it is!! ;)

besswess -- Indeed! And for some people, it holds powerful meaning...who am I to judge what inspires people, I suppose? Though, I will still laugh...

sam -- I would love to know what art makes you rabid and indignant!?

Lily said...

I don't think Beuys would really be opposed to your laughter, either. He's a pretty humorous artist in a certain way and ridiculousness is always a part of it, I think.