"Contemplating Joyce's scrotum-tightening Sea, Sandycove" Joseph Beuys at Sandycove,Dublin, Ireland 1974 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beuys at Sandycove

'Creativity isn't the monopoly of artists. This is the crucial fact I've come to realise, and this broader concept of creativity is my concept of art. When I say everybody is an artist, I mean everybody can determine the content of life in his particular sphere, whether in painting, music, engineering, caring for the sick, the economy or whatever. All around us the fundamentals of life are crying out to be shaped or created. But our idea of culture is severely restricted because we've always applied it to art. The dilemma of museums and other cultural institutions stems from the fact that culture is such an isolated field, and that art is even more isolated: an ivory tower in the field of culture surrounded first by the whole complex of culture and education, and then by the media which are also part of culture. We have a restricted idea of culture which debases everything; and it is the debased concept of art that has forced museums into their present weak and isolated position. Our concept of art must be universal and have the interdisciplinary nature of a university, and there must be a university department with a new concept of art and science'. "

-- Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys is one of the most influential artists of the last century. I wrote my final degree dissertation in Durban South Africa on his drawing practice and his ideas on 'Social Sculpture' have influenced my community based art projects. 'Social Sculpture' made a lot of sense to me growing up in Zambia and South Africa, in countries where you trip over poverty. 'Social Sculpture' is an idea in which society as a whole was to be regarded as one great work of art to which each person can contribute creatively.

I moved to Sandycove from Dublin city centre in September 2010. I am a regular swimmer at the forty foot and am aware that Joseph Beuys visited the place in 1974. I have the book 'Joseph Beuys We go This Way' by Caroline Tisdall that has beautiful images that she took of Beuys journey around a number of European countries. The images below from her book depict Beuys's visit to the forty foot, sandycove, Co-Dublin:

Beuys stands in a urinal at the 40 foot bathing area in 1974. He had come to visit The James Joyce Tower around the corner. The James Joyce Tower is one of a series of Martello towers that now holds a museum devoted to the life and works of James Joyce. Joyce made the tower the setting for the first chapter of his masterpiece, Ulysses. I can honestly say I like many have made numerous attempts to read Ulysses and failed. I recently read the first chapter, (out loud to my 2 month old daughter) I figured living round the corner and being a cultural practitioner I might as well get that under my belt.

In the image below Beuys warms the cold Irish Sea. Beuys the actor and Caroline Tisdall the documenter create the photographs. Not only is the journey a homage to Joyce but the images of Beuys in the urinal give a nod to one of the most famous works of art from the last century : Marcel Duchamp's Urinal (Fountain by R Mutt, 1917). Caroline mentions the creation of this image as being a bit of fun, they are taking the piss in it's referencing(nudge, nudge). But there is something stoic and monumental about this image. The fact that the image makes reference to two such dominant figures ( Joyce and Duchamp) of cultural thought and is of a now dominant cultural figure (Beuys) adds to this potency.

Joseph Beuys at Sandycove,Dublin, Ireland 1974 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall)

Fountain by R.Mutt, 1917 (Marcel Duchamp)photographed by Alfred Stieglitz.

Duchamp's Fountain is one of the most influential artwork of the 20th century. It is what Marcel Duchamp calls a ready made and has had a profound influence on contemporary art ever since. The work though a practical joke pushed the boundaries on art. It caused us to question what art is. Is it the object or the idea? Does the artist have to make there own work? It also provides a very interesting critique of the art market. Imagine giving an audience ready to see and purchase paintings and hand made sculptures a men's urinal to look at. Very Cheeky! All incredibly radical in 1917 and for some people still today.

"The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotum tightening sea."— James Joyce (Ulysses) Joseph Beuys we Go This Way, 1998)).In the image Beuys in contemplating Joyce's reference to the Irish sea in Ulysses. And the Irish sea is indeed cold warming up to a barmy 15 degrees in the summer, I swim there about 4 days a week and my male swimmer friends would vouch for the fact that it is indeed scrotum tightening if not shrinking. Beuys also looks out to the rest of Europe, he called Ireland 'The Brain of Europe'

Beuys completing the Brain of Europe drawing for his Hearth installation at the Royal Feldman Gallery, New York 1975 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall)

Beuys had hoped to exhibit his six Ulysses sketchbooks in the James Joyce Tower at Sandycove, along with the James Joyce manuscripts which are kept there, and Richard Hamilton's Ulysses drawings. The show was due to open on the magic Joyce date of 7.7.77 but was cancelled after the owners concern at the fragility of the sketchbooks." (Caroline Tisdall in her book Joseph Beuys We Go This Way, 1998)

Beuys is probably relieving himself in this image as this was an operating urinal up until last year when the HSE decided to close it for health reasons.

This is what the urinal looked liked last in May 2010:

Image by blogger Re: Sandycove Post by jordo » Tue May 04, 2010

This is what the urinal currently looks like:(photo's below taken by me in August 2011).

This is what the urinal currently looks like, August 2011

A secret block for a secret person in Ireland? (tongue in cheek where will men now urinate?)

There seems to have been much controversy on the closing of the urinal by some of the regular swimmers See George Humphries article FORTY FOOTERS' BURSTING WITH INDIGNATION AT TOILET CLOSURE
and this piece in March 2010 in the Irish Times Smell from Urinal creates a Stink but there is nothing online from the art community. That is my reason for creating this blog in order to bring awareness and conversation to the issue.

I don't have much of an opinion on the use of the urinal as being female I never did use it. Though I have noticed a strong smell of urine around the back rock of the 40 foot facing dun laoghaire town (this is obviously now where people not taking the plunge or teenagers hanging out choose to relieve themselves.) At least previously the urine smell was away from the seating.

Cora Cummins, an artist and lecturer at IADT living two minutes from the 40 foot commented in response to an Irish Times article 'Historic Sites have all the signs of gross ineptitude' recently in response to on the Beuys connection to the urinal.
"Recent history is also been overlooked, I live close to the Forty Foot at Sandycove where the urinal had been boarded up for health and safety reasons. This urinal is actually a very important piece of art made famous by the world renowned conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. Similar to Marcel Duchamps creation of a work of art from a urinal, Beuys intervention or performance at the urinal is a piece of art and important history. Bus loads of tourists visit the spot every day and I am sure many of them are aware of Joseph Beuys, its lamentable and frustrating to think that a visitors attraction is now gone. Dublin is hosting a major international art event in September and surely the urinal by the sea would have been on the list of important things to see?" 07/16/2011
Cora has also suggested in discussion with me that a plaque or some form of commemoration/ photo documentation could be made present at the 40 foot. I think that this is a good idea. This spot should be marked on Dun Laoghaire's cultural map. Dublin Contemporary opens in a months time and I'm sure there is a contemporary art audience who would be interested in making the pilgrimage out to the 40foot to the spots where one of the world's most famous books of literature begins and is commemorated and to the place Beuys visited. Sure and while they are there they may as well treat themselves to a dip in the scrotum tightening Irish sea, one of the best things to do in Dublin if you ask me.

(Caroline Tisdall currently works at the Social Sculpture Rearch Unit
The SSRU encourages and explores transdisciplinary creativity and vision towards the shaping of a humane and ecologically viable society. It engages with Beuys thinking and work, as well as those before and after him - making available some of the insights, inquiries and explorations in this multidimensional field.)

(More can be read about Beuys' relationship to Joyce in an article published in the Irish art magazine Circa in 2003 by Christa- Maria Lerm HayesJoseph Beuys 'Extends'James Joyce's Work http://www.jstor.org/pss/25563964)

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