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2005-09-05 - 11:17 a.m.

I read an article about J Beuys and his ironic approach to shamanism - which he claimed to have acquired during the Russian campaign when as a Luftwaffe pilot he was shot down over Siberia. This carries the idea of the primitive into the modern age. Beuys is obviously playing with these ideas after the Nazi utilization of some of this stuff - plus he is a German. In the light of that the claim is made that he has to be an ironic mythologist - a creator of an ironic image of himself as an art-wildman with special powers to access a powerful truth. This is quite a courageous stance to take in 1960s West Germany. I suppose if you are US-American (eg Plath-Hughes) then you feel you have earned the right to take this stuff in an unironic fashion. But maybe this is a mixed blessing.

Beuys is a pioneer of a move within the art-world to bring ‘yourself’ centrally into the work. Gilbert and George and Cindy Sherman are two more examples of this trend in the late 1960s and 1970s. The extent to which Ms Plath is ‘in’ her work is often noted as a criticism - but why? Is it because she is not ironic enough? What’s the opposite of ironic? Earnest?

I also read a Chapter of Prof Rose on SP and the body of work - a metaphor she interprets widely - not least in terms of the source of basic anxiety. Rose is famed for her use and development of Freudian ideas - a cluster of thought which I try to steer clear of. We can see how a poet might put herself into the work - including her body - from the inside - how the body can be a core source of imagery. There is a lot of original anthropological work in this area - Mary Douglas is a great pioneer for example.

Can you blame an artist for using themselves as a major resource for their art and being so committed to the metaphysics that goes with that use - taking the metaphysics as if it were utter truth - that they act out? I think it is really very difficult to do that. But doing philosophy is this way feels difficult too.

I bought a USB mike and some portable storage - two 250MB sticks - plus some cheap photo software - which at first sight looks very promising.

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