Joseph Beuys

Play 17 (1963)

About this artwork

Play 17 is one of several short plays Beuys wrote in the early 1960s. As seen here, most consist of a list of characters with a few lines of instruction. The first line shows that the play is set 'In a room with 4 fat corners acting together'. This is followed by a list of animals and insects and concludes with the stage directions; 'The animals vanish as soon as the Western man enters. Simultaneously projected on the room's north wall the 'Eastern man''. This reflects the artist's belief that Western culture had separated itself from nature, unlike Eastern culture. The play's importance to Beuys is shown by the fact it exists in several handwritten versions and four multiple editions. It was written as a scenario for an 'action'.

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  • title: Play 17
  • accession number: AR00115
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1963
  • measurements: 28.00 x 21.60 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © DACS 2016.
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys

German artist Beuys believed that art was integral to everyday life. His own art was shaped by an experience early in his life. As a Luftwaffe pilot during the war, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea and was saved by nomadic Tartars. Barely alive, he was wrapped in felt and fat which preserved his body heat, and taken to safety on sledges pulled by dogs. This incident, and these particular elements, informed much of his art, which has a redemptive, mystical and ritualistic character. Central to his work were his 'Actions', which involved teaching, audience discussion and performance. The recurrent themes were social and political. Associated with the ecological movement - he was a founder member of the Green Party - he also had a strong influence on German politics.