• 1974
  • Model train, locomotive without casing, red flag; in cardboard box (not illustrated)
    Box 44 x 35 x 4 cm
  • Edition: 12 plus III, signed and numbered; plus 1 copy, unnumbered, stamped
  • Publisher: Edition Schellmann, Munich
  • Catalogue Raisonné No.: 137

This multiple consists of a toy electric freight train, which flies a small red flag. Beuys produced the work in connection with his interest in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Slung out across the frozen Russian plains, this world-spanning trade route was, in Beuys’s eyes, a conduit between two regions with contrasting sets of social values: the rationalistic and materialistic West, and the intuitive and spiritual East. In many of his works, he called for a merging of these regions in the guise of a Eurasian society. Only by means of such a fusion, he argued, could the two societies find balance, and humanity, accordingly, make progress.

Echoing this call for progress is the train Beuys employed for Flag, which he conceived in homage to the Russian revolutionary trains of the Soviet era. These also flew a red flag, through which they announced their political allegiances. Beuys’s own social aims, however, were neither communist nor revolutionary. Instead of calling for the overthrow of existing political regimes, he stressed the need for a peaceful evolution of society, beginning with the adoption of a new form of direct democracy. Departing from the blueprints of both communism and capitalism alike, he hoped this more evolved society would fulfil the core ideals of socialism: freedom, equality and brotherhood.1 The three corners of the train’s red flag allude respectively to these values.2

  1. For a useful discussion of Beuys’s view on the tripartite schema for attaining socialism, see Volker Harlan, Rainer Rappmann, Peter Schatz, Soziale Plastik: Materialien zu Joseph Beuys (Achberg: Achberger Verlag, 1984), 12–13. 

  2. Jörg Schellmann (ed.), Joseph Beuys: Die Multiples (München, New York: Verlag Edition Schellmann, 1997) 449 

    Photo 1

    © Mario Gastinger, Photographics, Munich

    Rose for Direct Democracy1973 Wooden Postcard 1974