Joseph Beuys was active in Antwerp during the 1960s and 1970s through his relationship with Wide White Space gallery, for whom he was a key reference. Amongst his many exhibitions, it is here that he also made his performance Eurasienstab (Eurasian Staff) in collaboration with Henning Christiansen on 9 February 1968. Joseph Beuys Greetings from the Eurasian is in the first instance look at Beuys as an artist that was not only active in Antwerp (where he met other figures of the Post- War avant-garde such as Marcel Broodthaers and Panamarenko) but was also deeply influential in Belgium more broadly, in a way that has been largely forgotten.
The exhibition also considers Beuys as a figure who worked in a way that was contrary to the logic and hegemony of Modernism. He was in a sense the embodiment of the anti-Modern. Using his Eurasienstab performance as a starting point, the exhibition considers how Beuys use of the notion of Eurasia was part of his Anti-Modern sentiment, looking away from the grand-narrative and hegemony of the West, and towards a vision of affinity with the East, to the point of even removing such distinctions. It was a vision that was more attuned to cultural depth, mysticism and to nature. This was also echoed in his political engagement, with an approach to politics though a belief in discursivity, latent energy and direct action.
Joseph Beuys Greetings from the Eurasian includes numerous major works by Beuys, including a number of installations related to key actions, including Eurasienstab (Eurasian Staff) (1968) and Honigpumpe am Arbeitsplatz (Honeypump in the Workplace) (1977) that he activated at Documenta 6 in 1977, as well as key works such as Infiltration homogen für Konzertflügel (Homogeneous Infiltration for Grand Piano) (1966) and Straßenbahnhaltestelle (Tramstop) (1976), amongst many others. The exhibition also looks at the activities of the Antwerp Free International University that was set up by proponents of the Antwerp artistic community during the early 1980s. Joseph Beuys Greetings from the Eurasian is the first major exhibition of works by Beuys in Belgium since the 1980s.
The exhibition is curated by Nav Haq, Senior Curator, M HKA
The exhibition is the first in a series of monographic exhibitions at M HKA
looking at key figures of the Post-War avant-garde who were active in Antwerp, locating the city as part of a network of scenes around the dense region of Benelux and the Rheinland. Subsequent exhibitions in 2018 and 2019 will focus on Marcel Broodthaers and James Lee Byars respectively.