Iphigenia/Titus Andronicus

[Iphigenie/Titus Andronicus]

  • 1985
  • Photopositive and negative on film, stamped with brown paint (Browncross)
    glass, iron frame, 71 x 55 x 4.5 cm
  • Edition: 45 plus IX plus 5 A.P., signed and numbered
  • Publisher: Edition Schellmann, Munich and New York
  • Catalogue Raisonné No.: 523

Ipheginia/Titus Andronicus juxtaposes two photographs by Ute Klophaus, taken during Beuys’s performance Titus/Iphigenia from 1969. The first photograph depicts Beuys crouched low in darkness at the front of the stage, his hand and splayed fingers pressed against his face. Behind him, at the rear of the stage, stands a spotlit white stallion, grazing. Below, in the second image, Beuys stands erect with a pair of large cymbals held high on either side of his face. In a dramatic inversion of the upper photograph, this lower image is a ghostly grey negative, from whose pale interior Beuys’s body shines out darkly. Together, these dramatically contrasting compositions call attention to two focal elements of Beuys’s performance: its elaborate hand gestures and its several acoustic elements. 

Throughout most of Titus/Iphigenia, Beuys enacted stylised hand movements, like the one visible in the multiple’s upper image. Alongside these, he also made spoken utterances. While some of these comprised fragments of Goethe’s play Iphigenia in Taurus (1779–1786), much of what he said consisted solely of inarticulate murmurings, guttural sounds and animal cries.1 Behind him, on a sheet of iron, stood a white horse eating hay. Thanks to the presence of nearby microphones, the chewing sounds, whinnies and periodic hoofbeats of the horse were broadcast to the audience via loudspeaker. As the lower image intimates, when audience members grew restless, Beuys would clap the pair of cymbals together, creating moments of surging drama that conflicted sharply with his vocal performance. The emphasis he placed on these gestures and sonic elements evinced his interest in the use of sound and movement as artistic materials of expression. In an interview with Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Beuys described the significance of his vocal utterances in Titus/Iphigenia: “I thought it was time to handle language the way I had previously handled felt, for example, and to transfer this to speech.”2
The two images in Iphigenia/Titus Andronicus echo the rhythmic preoccupations of Beuys’s performance. Much like his gestures and verbal utterances, they give rise to divergent sensations as the eye passes jarringly between them.

  1. This summary is drawn from Uwe M. Schneede, Joseph Beuys: Die Aktionen (Ostfildern-Ruit: Verlag Gerd Hatje, 1994), 240–242 and Caroline Tisdall, Joseph Beuys (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979), 182 

  2. ‘Interview,’ in: Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Noch Kunst. Neuestes aus deutschen Ateliers (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1970), 44.  

    Photo 1

    © H. Koyupinar, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

    Katalog Museum Mönchengladbach 1967