Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Joseph Beuys | Rose for Direct Democracy

Joseph Beuys
Rose für direkte Demokratie 
Heidelberg, Germany: Edition Staeck, 1973
2 x 2 x 13.25"
glass graduated cylinder with inscription, rose
Edition of 440 signed and numbered copies

"At the documenta 5 exhibition in Kassel, West Germany in 1972, Beuys established a ‘political bureau’ for the Organisation for Direct Democracy Through Free Collective Referendum, a group he had recently co-founded. Throughout the hundred days of the exhibition, he spoke and debated with exhibition visitors, putting forward his ideas for reshaping society through creative activity. Though his proposals were often radical, Beuys worked hard to distance himself from groups like the Red Army Faction (R.A.F.) in West Germany and the Red Brigades (B.R.) in Italy, who at this time were advocating violence as a means of achieving social revolution. In contrast to this position, Beuys emphasised his wish for a more peaceful, evolutionary route to societal development.

On his desk at documenta 5 stood a slender glass vase, in which a fresh-cut red rose was placed each day. The multiple Rose for Direct Democracy derives from this vase, but consists of a graduated cylinder, on which the work’s title is inscribed. Spiraling upward from the cylinder’s base, the inscription follows the direction of the rose’s growth, evoking the smooth trajectory along which Beuys hoped to see society progress. The petals of the rose, which differ radically in appearance from the rest of the plant, became a signifier of this process in Beuys’s eyes, since they emerge by means of a gradual transformation of its leaves. As he noted in this connection several years after the exhibition, ‘Bud and bloom are in fact green leaves transformed. So in relation to the leaves and the stem the bloom is a revolution, although it grows through organic transformation and evolution.’”

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