Folks in the know hold the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys in similar standing to Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol as a key figure in expanding the field of art to include, potentially, just about anything. But beyond the contemporary art cognoscenti, he is far from a household name. That may change with the new documentary Beuys, by director Andres Veiel, which will have a theatrical run at New York’s Film Forum cinema beginning January 17, 2018.
The above trailer, premiering exclusively on Hyperallergic, gives a sense of the film’s expansive approach to the fedora-wearing artist’s philosophy and practice, including audio recordings and archival footage that’s never been seen before. Veiel’s film seeks to offer historical context for Beuys’s path-breaking work, from his conceptually crucial Multiples to iconic performances like “I Like America and America Likes Me” (1974), for which he lived in a gallery with a coyote for three days. It also draws on John Halpern’s 1988 film Joseph Beuys / TRANSFORMER, which tracks the artist’s preparation for his 1979 retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York.
“Only on condition of a radical widening of definitions will it be possible for art and activities related to art [to] provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power,” Beuys once said. “Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline.” The documentary Beuys will not only offer a psychological portrait of the man, but chronicle the many ways he sought to reverse the effects of our repressive social systems — and how his breakthroughs continue to influence artists today.
Beuys opens on January 17, 2018 at Film Forum (209 West Houston Street, Soho, Manhattan) for a two-week run.