Writings by Katharina Sieverding about Joseph Beuys
I did not know Joseph Beuys before studying at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1964. After dropping out of medicine, I studied art at the Hochschule für bildenden Künste in Hamburg. But it did not take long for me to look for something else. I became fascinated with the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk and worked with theater director Fritz Kortner. He introduced me as the stage designer Theo Otto. The designer Teo Otto was so impressed with my designs that he convinced me to go to his class in Düsseldorf. He often asked me to help him with larger theater productions. In 1964, we collaborated with Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera The Prophet (1849) at the Deutsche Oper, directed by Bohumil Herlischka, for which I designed about 600 costumes.
On June 3, 1967, Otto and I were in the middle of rehearsing for Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1791) at the Salzburg Festival. I was so annoyed by the noise that I stopped practicing and went to a cafe. In a newspaper there, I read about Benno Ohensorg, who was killed by police in West Berlin during a student protest against the Shah of Iran.i thought that: “Now I’m done with high culture. Now I’m going to Beuys. ‘Twenty days after Ohnesorg’s assassination, Beuys founded the German Student Party and I’re in his class. I wanted to create something of my own, I wanted to make art that would help with social and political issues, and I knew that only Beuys could teach me how to do it.
However, the center of our class – if not the entire academy – was Room 20. It was there that we discussed the separation of powers, the political implications of art, and the concept of “social sculpture.” The Beuys class was a space where art and politics were inseparable. What we were doing was different from the minimalism that galleries like Conrad Fisher brought to Düsseldorf from New York at the time, and our work was different from the way Beuys invited guest speakers to the academy, such as Nam Joon Pike, Ivan Rainer, Seth Sieglaub, and It was Robert Smithson.
Although I learned a lot about non-traditional art, I realized that I was more interested in photography. Instead of working in isolation in a studio, I wanted to take to the streets and support the protesting students. I learned everything I know about photography from Beuys.
Beuys had a special and unique view of art schools. Joseph Beuys believed that everyone should be allowed to study. . In July 1971, Joseph Beuys accepted 142 applicants who were originally rejected by other professors. Joseph Beuys was fired after the Academy’s offices were occupied by a group of rejected applicants. The police even came to clear his classrooms, and the photos I took of their attack were one of my first experiences with the camera. We prevented the dismissal of Beuys. He has always been a teacher to me – hopefully for generations to come.