I like America and America likes me – Joseph Beuys, 1974

coyote2

(Image taken from; http://johanhedback.com/blogbilder/coyote2.jpg)

Widely regarded as the piece that opened America’s eyes to German Avant-garde art, ‘I like America and America likes me’ is one of the pivotal works of Joseph Beuys’ career. The work is simple in design, but steep in symbolism; Beuys was taken to a room at 409 West Broadway from the airport in a veiled ambulance, then transported into the space upon a stretcher. There was no contact with american soil for Beuys, and this was important, he wanted to experience nothing of america but the subject of his piece; A wild Coyote. Wrapped in felt, and utilising a large Shepard’s crock as a leaning post, Beuys remained within the space with the coyote for eight hour periods, over three days. To share such a common space with a wild animal, let alone one that can harm you greatly, seems mad; but within this notion is the genius of the piece.

Beuys’ time spent with the coyote highlights an often forgotten principle of humanity; mutual respect for the animals that surround us, that we often take for granted within our culture. Pets are close companions, and we share a love for these few creatures, but animals considered ‘wild’ are often pushed to the sidelines, considered far too dangerous or primal for us, as humans, to relate with. Beuys’ exploration of the spiritual connection between man and beast is shamanistic at it’s core level, and relates well to my desired outcome of ‘Bird worship, not in the literal sense, but in a sense that harkens back to those most primal religions; the belief in essence, in spirit, in the energy of the focal animal, and the ability to gain this power. At the end of Beuys’ performance, he was close with the animal, each party had grown fond of the other, and this was shown by a mutual display of affection; they would hug, remaining close to one another as they both understood that neither was a foe, nor a threat, but a friend.

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