24 wooden sleds equipped with flashlights, felt rolls, belts, and fat tumbling out of the back of a 1961 Volkswagen bus. How mysterious.
That is until you delve a little deeper. In 1944, Joseph Beuys was shot down in battle. He was rescued by Nomadic Tartars, who dug him out of the snow and wrapped him in fat and felt to warm and insulate him, before they returned him to a German field hospital.
Felt and fat took on lifesaving imagery for him. But what of the other items in this installation? The belts also held significance. In that same crash, the pilot was killed on impact. Beuys swore that by not using safety belts he was saved, as he was thrown from the plane, versus his compatriot who died on impact, still strapped in place.
By the time Beuys was 24, the war ended. After being interned by the British for two months, he was released. Sweet liberty and a return to his first love; the arts. Is that what is captured here? Do the torches light his way to freedom and creativity?
Or is this all just symbolism aggrandized for the observer? Beuys was known to embellish his history and the story of his rescue could have been one of those fictions. Perhaps we need to see the healing elements in this installation, as a means for us to see our own light and direction more clearly?
How long will it take you to slide out of the box and find your path?
This installation is fascinating, with so much room for interpretation. The symbolism of the elements are key and that is where the story lies. While a biography of Beuys would be interesting, as he made up his own version of his life, perhaps fiction would be a better way to go with this piece. We create our own truths and that is what Beuys was getting at. It reminds me of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and other dystopian novels that lean heavily on symbolism. I think that direction would hold the most impact with the flashlight peering into the future paired with the life-saving fat and felt images pulling you forward either away from or with the pack. Don’t leave behind the tools from your past, your memories that help you survive, but know which ones to take. The story would have to start with that image and tie those reflections in along the way.