Ursula Reuter Christiansen on Joseph Beuys as Teacher
“Beuys was a teacher who turned everything upside down.” In this video, German-born artist Ursula Reuter Christiansen offers a unique insight into her experience of being a student of the leading and controversial artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the late 1960s.
“It was a very tough school.” Reuter Christiansen talks about how she was accepted into Beuys’ class as one of the first four female pupils. At the school, she studied with a peer group, including the likes of Jörg Immendorff, Imi Knoebel, and Sigmar Polke. She describes Beuys’ “feared and anticipated review process,” and how a few shots of schnapps and playing foosball with Immendorff were components in “getting back on the horse” after a harsh review session. Not all were equipped to handle the critique. To this, Reuter Christiansen adds, Beuys’ reply was simply: “I’m not their father.”
The legacy of Beuys, Reuter Christiansen notes, was not only his great slogans – such as “Everyone is an artist” – but how his unique way of working with his own experiences, material and existence also served as an inspiration for the flourishing women’s movement to do their own things: “It was a revolution. It wasn’t a cliché.” Beuys, she continues, wanted to change things. Though he sometimes came across as “a Messiah” with his disciples, Reuter Christiansen underlines the tremendous impact of his grand vision “to effect change from the bottom up.”
Ursula Reuter Christiansen (b.1943) is a German-born artist, based in Denmark since 1969 when she graduated from Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and married Danish artist and composer Henning Christiansen (1932-2008). Reuter Christiansen has exhibited widely. In 2001, she represented Denmark at the Venice Biennale with Henning Christiansen. She has participated in group exhibitions such as WACK! Art and the feminist revolution at MOCA in Los Angeles and MOMA PS1 in New York in 2007-08. Recent museum solo exhibitions were held at SMK National Gallery of Denmark and MdbK Leipzig. Reuter Christiansen has served as a professor at HFBK Hamburg and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. For more see: https://ursulareuterchristiansen.com/about/
Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) is a German avant-garde sculptor and performance artist. Known for his original and often controversial themes, his practice of “social sculpture” attempted to make art more democratic by collapsing the boundaries between life and art. Beuys served as Professor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1961 until 1972.
Ursula Reuter Christiansen was interviewed by Tine Colstrup at her studio in Denmark in July 2020.