25th of July 2019. The hottest day ever in Britain … considering the “vibrant matter” of Joseph Beuys’s artwork residing in a cooled, high-white room in the Tate Modern in London.
The 21 crystallized basalt pillars quarried near Kassel Germany in the 1980s, are connected with the 7000 blasted, selected, and hauled to the Kassel’s Friedrichsplatz in front of the Museum Fridericianum. Spawned from that expansive and ongoing 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) project, the Tate’s very materialized and very conceptualized artwork, The End of the Twentieth Century, was purchased by the Tate in 1991. It is one of three separate but related installations preserved intact and carefully curated in European museums. (Another: Pinakothek in Munich, which also today marked its hottest day in history.)
The week prior to arriving in London in May this year, and by good fortune, I walked among the Ballymeanoch standing stones in Kilmartin Glen in Western Scotland The coned circles carved into the boulders by Beuys echoed in my mind’s eye the cups and concentric circles on some of ancient stones placed upright 4000 years ago in the verdant valley. Through the Tate Modern gallery wondering wanderers drift by the Beuys stones with a glance of uncertain awe. Modern travelers gaze in similar fashion at the Kilmartin monuments. Stones, gaze, wonder.
John Berger believed, “In matters of seeing, Joseph Beuys was the great prophet of the second half of our century.” Prophet is a powerful word. Perhaps a good word to hold in mind when looking with placed stones while wondering about the human endeavor. Stones, heat, art.
Photos Douglas Beauchamp May 2019