Net.Art (+ art with dead rabbits)

January 29, 2010

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare

Filed under: Net.Art + Dead Rabbits — markhramos @ 6:31 pm


“On November 26, 1965, Beuys put the hare into the leading role in an Action. The title: How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. The place: Galerie Alfred Schmela, in Dusseldorf, a gallery that had commited itself early and strongly to Beuys and had done a great deal to promote his reputation. Beuys sat on a chair in one corner of the gallery, next to the entrance. He had poured honey over his head, to which he had then affixed fifty dollars worth of gold leaf. In his arms he cradled a dead hare, which he looked at steadfastly. Then he stood up, walked around the room holding the dead hare in his arms, and held it up close to the pictures on the walls; he seemed to be talking to it. Sometimes he broke off his tour and, still holding the dead creature, stepped over a withered fir tree that lay in the middle of the gallery. All this was done with indescribable tenderness and great concentration.”

Heiner Stachelhaus

In ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’, Beuys cradled a dead hare lovingly in his arms for three hours, walking it around and showing his drawings to it whilst explaining them to it in an inaudible whisper. The hare symbolises birth for Beuys because it is born and burrows underground, later to emerge from the earth[6]. The effect of Beuys’ body in the action is terribly important, the presence of a human being is difficult to ignore, especially as his head was covered in honey and gold leaf. The reaction would be far more different if Beuys had had his hare for example, reading about art from a book. The pictures on the walls, surrounding Beuys and the hare, are impossible to see all at once, and we realise that this is not so much about Beuys and a hare as it is about our own bodies, how we physically find ourselves in the world and how we relate to it. The problem of understanding and thus also of explaining is relevant to everyone.

“By putting honey on my head I am clearly doing something involved with thinking”, Beuys said. The image of the man made mute by his thinking, his over-rationalisation, is deeply unsettling. Perhaps this serves to emphasise Beuys’ opinion that western society is too rational. Beuys claimed he preferred to explain pictures to a dead hare than to other people. He said, “A Hare comprehends more than many human beings with their stubborn rationalism …I told him that he needed only to scan the picture to understand what is really important about it”.

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