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Crowdfunding for art in nature to discuss climate change

Date of news: 15 July 2021

The natural landscape between Kleve and Nijmegen played a central role in the life and oeuvre of one of the most influential and controversial artists of the 20th century: Joseph Beuys from Kleve. Life-sized photographs of the artist placed in this beautiful lower Rhine region should offer viewers the opportunity to critically 'read' climate change in the landscape and get inspired to think about art as a key to an ecologically sustainable future.

Enclosed between Nijmegen, Beek, Millingen aan de Rijn and the German city of Kleve, lies a unique, cross-border natural landscape with expansive views. In this area, called De Duffelt, the German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) developed an intimate relationship with nature. It was there that he created his first works, organised exhibitions, dealt with personal crises and made lifelong friends. 'Yet the importance of this area for Beuys' life and work has never been fully recognised’, says Frank Mehring, professor of American Studies at the Radboud Institute of Culture & History (RICH). ‘With our project, we want to introduce families, students and citizens to Beuys and what he stands for in an innovative way.’

Society

Joseph Heinrich Beuys grew up in Kleve and Rindern. In 1941 he passed the gymnasium exam and then volunteered to join the German Airforce. After the Second World War, Beuys chose art. From 1947 to 1951 he studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. For Beuys, art and life were inextricably linked. According to him, every person could be regarded as an artist and every action as a work of art. His ultimate goal was the social Plastik: society as a work of art.

Joseph Beuys
Joseph Beuys. Photo: Gerd Ludwig

Project

Frank Mehring’s ambition is to place seven impressive photos by Beuys in the landscape between Kleve and Nijmegen. Those photos were taken in 1978 by the German-American photographer Gerd Ludwig, for an item about Beuys in the German weekly Die Zeit. Beuysland, as the art installation in the landscape will be called, is part of the German-Dutch project ‘Art & Climate Change'. People from Radboud University, the Hochschule Rhein-Waal, the ARENACUM museum and the Freundeskreis Museum Kurhaus & Koekkoek-Haus work together in this project. A crowdfunding campaign has now been launched to raise 8,100 euros to make the realisation of Beuysland possible.

The photos bring Beuys into contact with the environment of his childhood, exactly in the places where they were taken about four decades ago. Mehring: 'The photographic art installation invites people to go out into nature with Joseph Beuys. By being physically present at these locations, spectators can critically view the landscape and the changes in it.

Climate Change

By 'critical viewing' Mehring refers to the subject of climate change. According to the researcher, Beuys' photos are ideally suited to discuss this subject. ‘Joseph Beuys – who was also involved in the founding of the Green Party in Germany – argued more than four decades ago that ‘only art will enable us to solve environmental problems’, Mehring says. ‘Nowadays, we are confronted with graphs and charts to illustrate the need for adjustments in our behaviour. Such information campaigns have so far not been very successful. Art can be, by bridging the gap between science and citizens.'

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Project team Beuysland

Crowdfunding

In addition to the art installation in the landscape, the team wants to develop a digital app and website with maps, artworks, videos and audio that connect to a bike ride through Beuysland. The interactive app provides background information about the three storylines Beuys & Nature, Beuys & Art, Beuys & Biography. The website will become an educational tool for teachers, students and citizens about art & climate change. Mehring: ‘This project brings people together through art. It can inspire us to think about the world we live in, how to preserve it and how art can help us find new ways to change the way we live.'

The production costs of the aluminum posters, framing, placing in the landscape and the photographer's license costs amount to € 8,100 in total. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise that amount. You can donate via: