REVIEW: Matthew Barney / Joseph Beuys at the Gugg

Matthew Barney / Joseph Beuys
Deutsche Guggenheim
Unter den Linden 13/15
October 28 – January 12

Nancy Spector’s pairing up of Joseph Beuys with Matthew Barney might very well have been a curatorial dash into sudden death. In Germany, the revered shaman artist who created the notion of “social plastic” and boldly proclaimed that “everyone is an artist” is bestowed with an untouchable aura. Whereas the legitimacy of creating a connection between the vitrines and drawings of the couldn’t-be-more-different artists is questionable – and possibly too literal –when Spector posits Barney’s Field Dressing (1989-1990) up against Beuys’s Eurasienstab [Eurasian Staff] (1967/68), a mind-spinning re-evaluation of the odd coupling occurs. While Barney assiduously climbs the walls and intermittently shoves Vaseline into the orifices of his bare body, Beuys engages in layering fat into the corners of the room and placing copper rods into felt-covered poles. By placing the documentation of these performances in rooms where one could watch both of videos at once, the viewer was allowed a space to analyze the motivation behind their shared devotion to rather elaborate (and personal) mythologies. The parallel egress from this world into that of the divine conveyed here reveals an uncanny passage in time – a promisingly unorthodox curatorial decision granting us an exodus from mundane juxtapositions.


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