Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja, Nee Nee Nee Nee Nee

[Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja, Nee Nee Nee Nee Nee]

  • 1969
  • Felt, tape recording
    15 x 25 x 25 cm
  • Edition: 100 (plus 10 copies 17 x 34 x 34 cm), numbered, unsigned
  • Publisher: Gabriele Mazzotta Editore, Milan
  • Catalogue Raisonné No.: 14

Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja, Nee Nee Nee Nee Nee consists of a stack of felt sheets, amid which a reel-to-reel tape has been inserted. The tape contains a recording of a Fluxus performance by Beuys, Henning Christiansen, a musician with whom he often worked, and Johannes Stüttgen, a student and assistant to the artist. The performance took place at the State Art Academy in Düsseldorf in December 1968. For close to an hour its three participants intoned the phrase ‘Ja, Ja, Ja, Ja, Ja, Nee, Nee, Nee, Nee, Nee‘ [Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, No, No, No, No, No], speaking at varying speeds and with varying inflections, but for the most part proceeding in a calm and rhythmic fashion. The piece originated as a satire of a typical conversation of old women.1 The recording itself, however, produces a less comical effect, especially in its calmer phases. Much in the manner of a meditative mantra, the ceaseless, near hypnotic repetition of a single simple phrase serves to empty the mind of the listener, clearing it of its usual cluttered run of thoughts and judgments, and its own ceaseless stream of affirmations and denials.2 The felt sheets induce a similarly calming effect: insulating, blank and absorptive, they dampen incoming energy, their depthless, grey surfaces encouraging a sense of stasis and reverie.

  1. In Jörg Schellmann (ed.), Joseph Beuys: The Multiples (Munich, New York: Edition Schellmann, 1997), 431. 

  2. Beuys valued the quiet contemplation of meditative thought highly. See, for example, his comments in this connection in ‘Letter from London: Joseph Beuys im Gespräch mit Willi Bongard,’ in: Jörg Schellmann (ed.), Joseph Beuys: die Multiples, 557–558. 

    Photo 1, 2

    © H. Koyupinar, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

    Katalog Museum Mönchengladbach 1967