- Digital Formats
Printed plastic bag made of polyethylene with an information leaflet and a felt object
75 x 51.5 cm
To today's ears, the statement 'How the dictatorship of the parties can be overcome', which Beuys used to describe his campaign for a system of direct democracy, sounds like a demand from the anti-vaxxer scene. And many of those who are currently attending such events could certainly have been found amongst Beuys's circle during his lifetime. The artist described himself as a healer and shaman, cultivated close relationships not only with anthroposophists and esotericists, but also with wartime comrades and old Nazis. Beuys's biography, long since meticulously combed through and appraised, continues to spark controversies that the artist, who was himself always keen to debate, would surely have enjoyed.
The initiative to introduce direct democracy through referendum, which Beuys promoted with his plastic bag containing an information leaflet and piece of felt, started in 1971, around 50 years ago. A diagram on one side of the plastic bag displays the theses on the advantages of a direct democracy and the disadvantages of a parliamentary one. On the other side is a drawing in which Beuys outlines the overcoming of the party dictatorship. In 1972 he set up an office at documenta 5 where he discussed these theses with visitors for the entire 100 days of the exhibition. The bags could be purchased at the documenta.
Beuys's commitment to direct democracy must be understood in the context of his theory of social sculpture, according to which each individual possesses the ability to contribute to the well-being of the community through his or her creativity. It is not enough to view Beuys's plastic bag in a selective way from today's perspective; the ambiguity of the 10,000-fold multiple should be perceived as an essential quality. Alone the different contexts in which the bag can appear create different possibilities of reception. For example, in the ifa exhibition 'Eine lange Geschichte mit vielen Knoten - Fluxus in Deutschland 1962 – 1994' ('A long history with many knots - Fluxus in Germany 1962 – 1994'), the plastic bag could be seen from 1995 to 2012 in various places around the world. The work has been part of the ifa exhibition Travelling the World since 2013.