Yesterday we went, among other things, to an exhibition of Joseph Beuys‘ photographs, in the Museum Schloss Moyland (the photographs not ‘by’ Beuys, but of him, and of his works). Apparently, the museum possess the largest archive of such photographs, that were donated by the Germans photographers aka collectors Hans and Franz Joseph van der Grinten, who in turn for years had been obtaining the Beuys’ pictures from the very him self. I didn’t know that before, but Kleve, a small German city, although not being his native town, was a very important for him; his parents lived there at the end of the war, and he returned there after the release from the internment camp.
To my knowledge, Beuys never took any pictures (not sure if he even had a camera, ever), but knowingly appreciated the pictures taken by others; as a performative artist, he was to a great extent dependent on capturing and documentation of his works, whether by professional photographers or amateurs. In many ways, it is these pictures that shape our perception of both personality of the artist and his works.
My expectations were therefore pretty high; I sought to see a large volume of interesting visual documents, showing new dimensions of Beuys’ life and artistic career. My first disappointment happened where I learned that the organizers prohibit taking any photos at the exhibition; moreover, they also actively chase you in the halls, if suspecting that you still try taking them (I did; I had to leave my large camera in the locket, but was able to snap a couple of pics with my iPhone). The guy on the picture is one of the guards who eventually forced me to stop using iPhone too.
I wrote, many times already, on how much I dislike these prohibiting measures; not only they steal my own experiences (I feel I do have the right to take a picture of my own son at the event, even if for his own memory later on); they steal their own history too, because at the end the museum will not be able to show any document confirming that people were there, and did see the works. But in this case it was a particular ironical, almost surreal – the very content of the exhibition was the photographs taken by people who wanted to preserve their contemporary experiences (of seeing Beuys, in this case) for the history. Thanks to them we had these materials in a first case – and yet the museum decides to prevent me from doing the very same activity! Most stupid.
A couple of ‘prohibited pictures’:
Joseph Beuys & Andy Warhol (you can recognize my iPhone in the upper-right corner; the pictures were mounted under the glass, so the reflections)
Joseph Beuys & Dalai Lama (you need to search for Beuys here)
But I am mostly disappointed not with these pesky restrictions, but with the very way the exhibition is arranged; I can’t remember when I saw so boring and uninspiringly arranged one last time 😦 It is – literally – soooo last century a curatorial concept: plank some pictures on the walls, and this is it, basically. No context is provided, nether related to the times in general, not the art trajectory of the artist himself. Nor any information about the photographers – this, in fact, pissed me off most; these are the people who made all these works, and in a way are the foundation this archive is built upon – and yet we hear no stories about them, and see no pictures of them themselves.
With a minimal imagination and a tiny piece of professionalism this event might have been transformed into a major cultural blast; instead, it is a bleak and sick ghost; what a pity.