Alternative approaches to teaching ART
Joseph Beuys and the use of butter and animal fat in his work
This is a journal entry describing an indirect approach to the question if a certain object as later illustrated by Joseph Beuys “fat corner” is or is not art. Rather than to start by discussing what art might be, I took two sticks of butter and a box to a class of fifth graders. I opened the butter and started squishing it between my hands without explaining what I was doing and why I was doing it. The butter was slightly softened and was growing softer still through handling and it had good sculptural properties. As I worked air into it, it produced disgusting sounds. I walked around the room, talking about art in general,never referring to my activity, still working the butter between my hands. The kids were intrigued, their reaction ranged from mere disgust to laughter, on which i did not comment, but after a while they started to be fascinated by their own responses to the demonstration, how emotional, shocking, entertaining this seemed to them – and why, and so they talked about that. in the end I sculpted the butter into a corner of the box. I picked the box up and presented it to them like a diorama. then I asked: is it art?
Out of 21 kids, based on their own experience of the performance, 19 judged it to be art.”