chapter  3
52 Pages

Life after death

Joseph Beuys and re-enchantment
WithTaylor Worley

The enigmatic artist Joseph Beuys (1921–86) survived his time as a German soldier in World War II and went on to become an international art icon known for his concept of “social sculpture” and the corresponding adage that everyone is an artist. The controversial origins of his personal mythology – along with his self-professed status as a shaman to the artworld – invite numerous associations with the question of the re-enchantment but also invoke fierce criticisms from the likes of Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Thierry de Duve, and their circle of critics. The spiritual readings of Beuys’s artworks that have angered his critics so much actually belie the deeply theological roots of his creativity; a theme best explored by the Jesuit priest and art commentator Friedhelm Mennekes. When set within a broader theological context around the thought of death, Beuys’s works can be appreciated for the ways they envision possible futures for Germany after the war. Thus, this chapter explores Beuys’s artistic fascination with Resurrection through art and the remarkable thematic parallels that emerge in connection with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “late” theology. Such considerations, on the part of both the artist and the theologian, help to re-align any theology of hope to its rightful origins in lament.