• 1970
  • Photosensitive canvas
    125 x 175 cm
  • Edition: 100, signed and numbered
  • Publisher: art intermedia, Cologne
  • Catalogue Raisonné No.: 28

This multiple derives from a photograph by Ute Klophaus, which was taken at the end of a 1968 performance by Beuys, entitled Vacuum↔Mass, Simultaneous = Iron box, halved cross, contents: 20 kg fat, 100 air pumps. During this event, Beuys filled a large iron chest, in the form of an incomplete cross, with 100 bicycle pumps and 20 kilograms of fat. When the chest was packed tightly with this material, he sealed it shut with a blow torch. As the name of the performance suggests, Beuys used it to explore the relationship between contrasting states of emptiness and plenitude: ‘The fat embodies mass, the positive principle, and the air pumps represent a vacuum, a negative principle,’ Beuys noted in describing this contrast.1 Throughout the course of this performance, the iron chest passed through both these states.

In Beuys’s art, the states of emptiness and fullness aligned respectively with the realms of spirit and matter, whose relationship he frequently explored using the sign of the incomplete cross. In an earlier performance called MANRESA (1966), he had used this motif to signal his desire to achieve a balance between spiritual and material experience.2 Here, the half-cross had symbolised the spiritual domain, while its intangible, missing arm became a sign for material experience—meanings that again came into play in the Vacuum↔Mass performance. The visibly incomplete state of the iron half-cross was intended to call forth an awareness of its missing element, which the spectator might mentally restore, uniting the domains of matter and spirit.

  1. Interview with Willoughby Sharp, in: Artforum, December 1969, 43. 

  2. On the East-West, spiritual-material significance of the cross in MANRESA, see Caroline Tisdall, Joseph Beuys (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1979), 108. 

    Photo 1

    © Mario Gastinger, Photographics, Munich

    Katalog Museum Mönchengladbach 1967