Gallery: Joseph Beuys vs. Jay-Z

Before you watch the video of the mastermind Hennessy Youngman (posted below) I thought I would introduce you to the actual art-historical background of the piece H.Y. talks about: Joseph Beuys “I Like America and America Likes Me.” So with that being said, I shall begin.

In the Second World War, Beuys was flying airplanes for the German army. But his place crashed in Crimea and he was saved by nomadic Tartars. They wrapped him in animal fat and felt to raise his body temperature. While this was a life changing experience for Beuys, it became a dominent theme within his art – what are the most essential things in life? How are we connected to nature? Basic elements are key.

It was in 1974 When Beuys decided to create a performance “I Like America and America Likes Me.” In this performance, the German artist came over to America and did a performance in the Rene Block Gallery in New York City in which the artist places himself in a room where visitors would come and witness his “creativity” –  which can also be thought of the dumbest decision a person could ever make. Who wants to spend a whole week with a coyote?!

Beuys spent a week with an uncaged coyote. Genius? I’m not so sure? Entertaining?! Nevertheless. The props that he used in his performance besides the coyote were a felt blanket (felt is something you find often in his works such as his “Felt Suit” and so on…) and a crook. The crook too could thought of obtaining shaman powers through its association of the shaman staff, a power wielding element. Apparently, Beuys had enough power over the coyote, that he was never attacked. Thankfully. But this notion of living with an untamed creature recalls not only elements of danger, but also recalls the notions of living in a primitive environment, way back in the day, like way way way back.

In his performance, he tells his new, friend the coyote, whether wrapped in his felt or unwrapped, about America. But those who were looking in on the performance could not hear anything. This idea of telling an animal a story, something that the visitors could not hear, was nothing new for Beuys, for he had done somewhat something along the same lines in 1965 “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare.” Let me tell you, many spectators felt left out. Why is it that these animals dead (as in the case of the hare) or alive (as in the case of the coyote) get to listen to Beuys and we don’t?! Well, for the sake of the artist, he felt that these animals were the only ones worthy of hearing his thoughts? And yet, we the public, although annoyed, could not stop watching.

Is Beuys crazy? Possibly. But he was a crazy genius that captivated the attention of the world. And Hennesy Youngman, a very well educated art-enthusiast decides to create an ingenius comparison between Beuys and Jay-Z – something that I never thought would have any correlation, but apparently it does… watch for yourself!


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