Ausfegen, 1972 - 1988

Betacam SP, PAL, 4/3, couleur, son

The action Ausfegen (Sweeping up) took place in Berlin-West, for the occasion of the events of 1st May 1972. At first, Joseph Beuys contents himself with watching the protest march pass by, broom in hand, while two of his students distribute plastic bags in the colours of his recent political formation, the Organisation for Direct Democracy. Once Karl-Marx Square is free of protestors, the artist and his assistants start sweeping. The rubbish is collected in the ODD bags, then dispersed inside the René Block gallery: these bags, along with the broom that was used for the action, were then assembled by the artist in a display case.
Joseph Beuys wanted the advent of a “free democratic socialism” in opposition to what he called the “façade democracies” of the Eastern and Western blocks. Through this action, he aimed to show the necessity of surpassing ideologies to bring about effective change in our societies, beyond the divisions that such ideologies engender. Surpassing the political oppositions instituted by the party system and provoking real change, through individual awareness followed by collective action, this seems to be the message expressed by Ausfegen. It is difficult, then, not to call to mind a photograph by Joseph Beuys, also dated 1972. It shows the artist striding resolutely towards the lens, with “La Rivoluzione siamo noi” (“We are the Revolution”) inscribed at the bottom of the picture.

Philippe Bettinelli,
Translated by Anna Knight