Joseph Beuys: 7000 Oaks. Land art meets urban renewal
In 1982, Joseph Beuys inaugurated a monumental sculptural work in Kassel for Documenta 7, the international art fair that was held in the city. It consisted in the sowing of 7000 oak trees paired with four foot high basalt columns. Beuys conceived this work as the first stage in an ongoing international project and it has continued since in different locations, under the auspices of the Free International University (FIU) and the support of the Dia Art Foundation, in locations such as New York in 1996, in Australia for the 7th Sydney Biennial and in front of the Art Academy in Oslo.
Raising ecological awareness was one of Joseph Beuys’ principal aims in the making of the 7000 Oaks piece. His visionary approach linking art, social engagement and natural environment stands as a pioneering work within the field of art and ecology and in the lineage of Land Art practices from the 1960s.
The symbolic value of the oak, with its slow and solid growth, paired with the static and massive form of the basalt stones, reflect the ideas of completeness, the passing of time and landscape modification.
Beuys’ desire to sow into the future a change in people’s and communities’ attitudes towards nature and their environment is mirrored in the constantly changing relationship between the tree and the stone. As time passes and the tree grows, the proportional relationship between the two evolves, the tree gaining in strength and height as people’s consciousness and engagement should. This protean sculpture can be engaged with on many different levels, bringing up multiple layers of artistic and social implication. It speaks to both individual and local action – in Kassel as a gesture towards urban development, as well as a monumental, universal and propagating initiative to effect environmental and social change in a global scale.
Both photos copyright: Dieter Schwerdtle Fotografie. The bottom photo shows Beuys planting the fist of the 7000 oaks in front of the Fridericianum in Kassell, 1982.
I wanted to post something about Joseph Beuys because he has had a profound influence on my thinking about art, ecology and life. I was recently particularly thinking about this work “7000 Oaks” and how it would be really fantastic to do the same thing in Scotland as a symbol of our connection to landscape, history, tradition and most of all a growing future. In Germany the Oak is highly symbolic in their culture. Wouldn’t it be possible to plant 7000 Scots Pines (or another type of tree) in Edinburgh or Glasgow paired with Gneiss or basalt columns as an evolving work of art?
Any one want to help out?!
here’s a link to an old interview with Caroline Tisdall about her friendship with JB – http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/1999/jul/19/artsfeatures2