Joseph Beuys Says..., 2024

Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden

The thinker, opinion leader and action artist Joseph Beuys polarized as a "scandalouscelebrity" (Der Spiegel, 45/1979) during his lifetime - and still does to a certain extent. To this day, his editioned objects (called "multiples") or action remnants "speak" his language, outlining major themes such as environmental awareness or liberalism. Nevertheless, the"Beuys phenomenon" is not easy to understand. On the one hand, the artist called for manyimportant things; on the other, his coded and artistic style made the content difficult to accessfor the broad masses he supposedly wanted to address. What remains today is above all theself-created myth of an artist who is still discussed today as a dazzling figurehead of post-war West German art - or whose content seems so far removed from the reality of his own life. Just as ambivalent as his art between everyday material and pseudo-science, opinions abouthim were and are divided: People either adore him or disapprove of him. One of the reasonsfor this may be that, despite his holistic energy, which also had an impact beyond the culturalsector, it seems difficult to convey Beuys' content: what happens to Beuys' "social sculpture" when the thoughts and action poles, often cryptically transfigured in terms of content, aresimply no longer understood today as archive material without prior knowledge of his work?

Cem A. deals with this phenomenon and asks himself how it can be dealt with today - with open results. What he finds, however, is that Beuys' demands and notes were often recorded so openly and cryptically that they are interpreted in many different and universal ways in research. Would Beuys therefore still function today as an opinion maker - a kind of trophyspeaker - for the interests of Cem A.? "Joseph Beuys says read more about Sturtevant", Cem A. posthumously puts into the artist's mouth in his intervention, referring to the American conceptual artist Elaine Sturtevant, who took on Joseph Beuys artistically and satirized him as early as 1988. With silver embossing on a black hardcover, Cem A.'s book objects are reminiscent of academic theses, and yet - or precisely because of this? - do not provide answers, but rather raise more questions. Just like Beuys' sketchbooks, their passive form of presentation denies a deeper "penetration" into the subject matter and misleads not only Beuys, but also the communication of his conceptual art in a museum context: although the book title stimulates interest, the presentation of the medium "book" in the display case denies a closer examination of the content on offer. Especially as the selection of artists juxtaposed by Cem A. Beuys also falls under purely personal associations. His contribution can therefore be understood as more than just an ironic wink and raises important questions: How can a concept be conveyed? 

It is these and similar questions and grievances that Cem A. always passes on to the audience in his art with a humorous twist, thus practicing them as openly as the Joseph Beuys he deals with. In the last art summer, he chose the medium of the road sign to carry the idea of the digitally sent meme into analog space at 30 selected locations. He mirrored "It's you" to the Wiesbaden audience and commented on the connection between everyday life and art, which are closely linked, regardless of whether it is about political motifs or simply observations. However, similar to the Fluxus art movement, which was the leitmotif of Kunstsommer 2023, the road signs pushed the boundaries of art in and with public space - in this case, specifically the boundaries of road traffic regulations, which do not allow for artistic interpretations. 11 days after their installation, the signs had to be taken down or had already been stolen beforehand. From a historical perspective, things could not have gone better, as the thesis that everyday life and art perhaps do not always go hand in hand to the extent that is often romantically portrayed - for example in Beuys research - proves to be true. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that a discourse or a playing field has been opened up that is as difficult to put into words as trying to explain why a joke is funny. So perhaps the concept has worked after all and will continue to be considered by many.