Section 1. Introduction
My argument is that the barrier that once stood between fine art conceptual thought and design conceptual thinking is being broken down as a result of globalisation.
The main historical thrust of neoliberal economic globalisation is to bring about a situation in which private capital and ‘the market’ alone determine the restructuring of economic, political and cultural life, making alternative values or institutions subordinate. Rather than capital and ‘the economy’ being embedded in society and harnessed to serve social ends, ‘the economy’ becomes the master of society and of all within it, and society exists to serve the ends of capital and its need for self-expansion. It is a necessary aspect of this process that ‘politics’ itself, and ‘democracy’ in particular, should become increasingly formalistic, stripped of substantive radical, revolutionary, or even reformist content, any of which might challenge the consolidation of the hegemony of capital over society”. What does this mean? It means instead of society running the economy, the economy runs society. This affects us in terms of people having to pay for everything; the doctor, the hospital, etc. The government no longer pays in other words we become a user pays society. Social values are not as important as money. This means that money is valued more than people” (Gills 2002)
I intend to study this by comparing the conceptual thoughts and theories of an internationally recognised fine art master (Joseph Beuys) with the work of a modern day multimedia designer, artist, hacker, performer and genius (Hans Bernhard). Joseph Beuys said this (De Domizio 1997:51):
Democratic Creativity is increasingly compromised by the progress made on the part of bureaucracy, coupled with the savage proliferation of an international mass culture. Political creativity continues to be reduced to the simple delegation of decisions and power. The imposition of a cultural and economic dictatorship throughout the whole world, thanks to the economic trusts, which are in continuous expansion, leads to loss of articulation, ability to learn, and verbal expression
De Domizio (1997:115) believes that Beuys’ thought was humanist thought and that it will continue to grow, because today we have concentrated too much on science and technology, neglecting true human relationships.
The Internet has unquestionably been a major catalyst of globalisation and its wide spread reach to the four corners of society. Hans Bernhard was asked if the Internet has made the world a better place? To which he replied:
No, just a faster and smaller place… [Design Indaba Magazine 2001]
Section 2. A Master
Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld on 12 May 1921 (Stachelhaus 1991:9). He grew up in a strongly catholic petit bourgeois environment near Kleve – where he spent the first years of his life.
Throughout history, this region has been torn by countless wars, from Roman times up to the world wars of the twentieth century (Stachelhaus 1991:9). Numerous historical figures are bound up with this territory, and some of them cast powerful spells upon Beuys’ imagination. Among them (Stachelhaus 1991:9), Johann Moritz von Nassau, of the House of Orange in the 17th Century, attempted building an ideal city of the soul in Kleve. Another was Anacharsis Cloots, an ardent intellectual and revolutionary guillotined for his efforts defending the ideas of the French Revolution in Europe. This region at the time, was predominantly Dutch and Catholic, and placed little if any importance on borders (De Domizio 1997:17).
According to Heiner Stachelhaus (1991:9), Beuys did not have a close relationship with his parents and took care of himself from an early age. Beuys, remembered (De Domizio 1997:18) that for years he acted the part of a Shepard walking around with a sort of ‘Eurasian staff’ and a flock gathered around him exploring everything in the vicinity. At 17 he set up a well-equipped laboratory at home and engaged in scientific experiments. Together with his innate talent for natural sciences, Beuys showed a passion for sculpture (De Domizio 1997:19). Announcing only a few days before his own death on 23 January 1986, Beuys honoured and thanked the man he considered his “Master” (De Domizio 1997:77), the late Wilhelm Lehmbruck, and then told of his first introduction to Lehmbruck and Lehmbruck’s work. Beuys (as quoted in De Domizio 1997:77) continued that one day by mere chance, he laid his hands on a publication lying on a table with many others. Opening it he saw a sculpture by Lehmbruck, and an idea flashed through his mind, the idea that everything was a sculpture. He saw a flaming torch and heard a voice telling him to protect it. This event accompanied him through World War II and eventually spurred him on to pursue it (De Domizio 1997:77). His favourite topics in literature were philosophy, enthropology, folklore, Nordic Mythology (De Domizio 1997:19; Stachelhaus 1991:11-14) and other subjects that were forbidden by the Nazis.
He remained a detached spectator of the Nazi years, and as a sideline his love of music took him to cello and piano lessons (Stachelhaus 1991:12). Despite his love of art, he took his diploma and became a paediatrician in 1940. From there, his strong interest in science and technology lead him to join the German air force in 1941.
After being shot down, badly wounded five times, and captured once, he returned to Kleve in 1946. Sitting in a lecture one day he recognised the limitations of science, and decided to dedicate the rest of his life to art, leaving his grim experiences of war behind him (De Domizio 1997:20-22).
At this time Jack Moffit (1997) believes Beuys discovered, explored and transformed Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy theory into his own theory of art. Robert Allan (2000:55) defines Anthroposophy as a system of belief, which holds that there is a spiritual world that can be perceived by faculties latent in human beings and that these latent faculties can be developed by systematic training. According to Alan Bullock & Stephen Trombley (1999:37), Steiner claimed to derive his teachings “from ‘spiritual research’ based on an exact ‘scientific’ mode of supersensible perception”.
Beuys (as quoted in De Domizio 1997:24) reveals later that in 1951, in a state of depression, he literally began questioning everything including his own life. Seeking the most profound elements in life, art and science, he began seeking a completely different theory of art, science, life, democracy, capital, economics, culture and freedom. During this time he managed to establish the outlines of a larger theory of art that involved social structures as a whole, the revolution and evolution of all human development, and an anthropological idea of human creativity.
Between 1962 and 1965 (De Domizio 1997:28), Beuys was part of the Fluxus movement, which based itself on a connection between art and life and was directed towards a new order of human society. Often working with the concept of chaos Beuys awoke to the idea that a new situation could be created from it. Another idea of Beuys’ by which art is available to everyone and useable anywhere and everywhere came from this period (De Domizio 1997:28), namely vehicle art.
Beuys, according to De Domizio (1997:34) never demanded a specific knowledge or particular reaction from the public to his work, but instead seeked out the energy points within the field of human power and understanding – with the belief that man must complete himself through his own efforts (De Domizio 1997:81).
In a certain sense, Beuys was an anarchist (Stachelhaus 1991:106). He had no time for the mind-set of democratic compromise, but was rather interested in breaking through the limitations that had been imposed on democracy. Beuys meant very seriously when he said (Stachelhaus 1991:106) that he had nothing to do with politics but that he only knew art, this keeping within the principles of his expanded concept of art, the idea that art is the primary factor governing our existence and our actions.
In 1964 right-wing students accused Beuys of pursuing revolutionary goals, while in 1969 a group of left-wing students interrupted an action of his in Berlin and instead accused him of being a reactionary (De Domizio 1997:38). But despite these accusations, Beuys (De Domizio 1997:38) felt that belonging to the left, right or center no longer meant much because the so-called parliamentarian democracy was being questioned as a whole. Beuys had defined his objectives as early as 1967 with the formation of the German Student Party [DSP] (Stachelhaus 1991:107). The DSP emerged from the great public debates that Beuys regularly held in his class at the Dusseldorf Academy. Commenting on the DSP’s establishment, according to Stachelhaus (1991:107), Beuys simply stated: “I want into parliament!”.
To broaden the horizons of the German Student Party, Beuys founded the ‘Organisation for Non-Voters and Free Referendum’ in 1970. Beuys explains (De Domizio 1997:42):
The educational concept refers to the fact that man is a creative being. It is important to be aware of this: to create an awareness of the fact that he is a creative being and a free being and that for these reasons he must inevitably behave in an anti-authoritarian fashion. The concept of perception theory confirms that only the creative man can change history, can use his creativity in a revolutionary way. To go back to my educational concept, this would mean the following: Art = creativity = freedom of man [freedom being one of his main motivations]
Beuys goes on explaining that a revolution is within ourselves, and that the only possible revolution lies in our ideas, therefore ‘We are the revolution’ and only in our behaviour is there evolution (De Domizio 1997:47).
From here on his work revolved around many interesting and different points of view, with subject titles that were not directly a reflection of what we see, but asked the question of what there was to see (De Domizio 1997:43).
According to De Domizio (1997:7) as early as the 70’s, Beuys warned – in “Aufruf zur Alternative” (Appeal for the Alternative) and “Aktion Dritter Weg – Aufbauninitiative” (Third Way Action – Promotional Initiative) – that the human race was condemned to sink even deeper into ecological crisis; to be defencelessly exposed to a wild growing threat of war: to stand by impotently as the rift between rich and poor nations continues to grow; to be persistently tormented by racial hate, religious struggle, and nationalism, by exploitation and oppression, by humiliation and violence, by the dictates of political and economic power, and by biological and social manipulation. Beuys (De Domizio 1997:8) was the artist who, more than any other, wanted and was capable of going beyond art by directing all his efforts towards the utopian territories of natural energy and spiritual communication: reality as a phenomenological specter of human possibilities.
In 1974 Beuys (De Domizio 1997:49), together with the Nobel Prize Winner Heinrich Boll, established what could be considered the artist’s most important creation, aimed at a real form of progress with respect to existing educational institutions: the ‘Free International University’, (Luckenbach 1997) which admitted all students and function outside of the existing academic system. Often using the blackboard as a demonstrative tool, his actions became lectures in which he directly addressed his audiences.
Joseph Beuys’ two most singular aspects of thought were reappropriation and free creativity (De Domizio 1997:9), the former consisting of a rare attitude with regards to reconstruction rather than conquest, towards discovery rather than invention and therapeutic improvement as opposed to substitution, in this sense the need to speak and necessity of communication. The second aspect is characterised by that famous free human creativity that he preached and taught. Beuys (De Domizio 1997:67) versed his free creativity theory in Bolognano 1984:
… The only thing that each one of us can do is to begin with the study of his or her own anthropological powers… [for] the development of human beings on this planet [it] is a question of freeing ourselves from all dependencies of the past. We now must face the realization that it is no longer possible simply to follow a leader [or] a political ideology… and that the time has come for us to begin to make full use of the most important of all our powers: the power of creativity (Creativity is a matter of the possibility of thinking… or thinking power and the level of the creativity of the feelings)… [and it’s] most authentic part… freedom… It is our duty to show what we have produced with our freedom… [since] Freedom mostly means the freedom of others. When we know that we are cooperating together as free individuals, then we are also much closer to the creation of a real and concrete democracy [as] democracy structures have to be a result of freethinking and of our equality as thinking individuals… the basis upon which we can then establish a constitution
Another large part of Beuysian thought was the concept of ‘Social Sculpture’ (De Domizio 1997:83), whereby art is a daily act, a broadened and dilated action, not localised, not univocal, not limited to the relative content of the art object but art as the creative commitment of living, entirely incarnated in behaviour. A way of transforming the world into ‘Social Sculpture’, in which no man needs to acknowledge himself, but rather is and acts as an ‘artist’, the demiurge of every moment of his life (De Domizio 1997:83).
Being considered as an avant-garde artist probably meant nothing to Beuys explains De Domizio (1997:82), though he became a media icon partly of his own making (Luckenbach 1997). Constantly being photographed and videotaped, he promoted the ideological causes that made his art a vehicle to bring about discourse (Luckenbach 1997). Others called him a charlatan, a diseased preacher, and even a crafty buffoon, yet some would place Beuys on an artistic altar (De Domizio 1997:81). In truth however, he was a tireless agitator, who provoked and challenged continuously for what he so strongly believed in, crossing the traditional frontiers of art to open the doors of the ghetto in which it had been impounded (De Domizio 1997:82).
Well remembered for a popular image of being the man with ‘the felt hat’ he explained its significance(De Domizio 1997:2):
A rabbit isn’t a rabbit without ears… [so] Beuys isn’t Beuys without the hat
Section 3. An Apprentice
Hans Bernhard was born in New Haven Connecticut in 1973 (Bernhard 2002) and studied Visual Media Art at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna with a professor Peter Weibel (MFA Degree 1999). He is currently working on his PHD in ‘Media Hacking’ (Bernhard 2002).
Bernhard found himself on the Internet for the very first time in 1993 (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). Sitting in front of three shells (telnet-sessions) he asked himself where he was, where he was physically, and where he was mentally? Not knowing if he was on a server in Tokyo, in Vienna or on a machine in Cape Town, he got nervous and began to sweat heavily. Sparks were exploding in his brain and immediately he knew that this was it, that this was his future now, and that this was the future (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
That same year, funded by Japanese venture capital, in a Swiss mountain training facility, Bernhard and six other hackers distributed across Europe founded the multi award winning and much talked about “Etoy.com” (Bernhard 2002). Etoy’s goals were to smash the boring style of electronic traffic channels; to stretch reality by leaving it behind; and to play the game between business, art, and entertainment, by kidnapping web-crawling humans and injecting a little uncertainty into life on the web (Etoy 2002). Knowing that the highlighting of corporate abuse would cause such controversy, they began the Etoy tanksystem in 1994 with the very symptomatic slogan: “Etoy: the pop-star is the pilot is the coder is the designer is the architect is the manager is the system is Etoy (Bernhard 2002). The corporate identity and panic management strategies were central to their high-pressure explorations. They used the web as a stage to disrupt the data flow, abuse technology, and promote pop-music (Bernhard 2002). It ran from 1993 to 1996, a time when the world-wide-web was unknown to the general public (Bernhard 2002), yet Etoy was awarded the Golden Nica first prize of the ARS Electronica festival for new media in 1996 (Bernhard 2002). In 1996, pop star singer Bjork from Iceland said the following (Bernhard 2002): “…and all our children will be playing in the garden of joy surrounded by glamour and perverted disco tunes…etoy, immature digital priests from another world”. Etoy operated until 1999, when due to personal conflicts, the board split into two parts (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
Today Bernhard and three other founding members are running the Etoy-holdings company which holds major and minor stakes in all other Etoy companies (Bernhard 2002). Bernhard’s involvement is purely profit orientated since Etoy-holdings deals with financial, legal, trademark, buying and strategic planning (Bernhard 2002).
In 1999, together with his partner Maria Haas, he founded a network holding of companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Bulgaria called Ubermorgen (Bernhard 2002). These are heavily involved in software development, licensing deals, fine art, applied design and even high-end consulting services for global multinationals such as the Allianz Insurance Corporation. Bernhard’s intentions at the time were to research and investigate global corporations [“…monsters of the universe…”] just like it (Bernhard 2002). Hosting their server farm from their bedroom, Ubermogen has completed an amazing amount of legal articles, projects, lawsuits, and publications using global mass media as an art form, as a fine art, and as a business strategy (Bernhard 2002).
Hans Bernhard has often been called subversive because of the things that he says he likes doing and the way that he goes about doing them (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). Bernhard explains (Design Indaba Magazine 2001) that he loves the thrill, the style, and the aesthetics of action. Going directly to prison or being immediately killed are the dangers associated with the supposedly illegal measures that he takes. But it is this reality (Design Indaba Magazine 2001) that he feeds off of and craves – not the threat of dying or a prison sentence – but that he can show people that certain things [like attacking corporations and governments] thought illegal, can actually be done or opposed legally, and most of all, extremely effectively. This draws relevance from Joseph Beuys’ theory of free creativity, how freedoms should be shared and displayed as a duty to mankind, as freedom more often than not means the freedom of others and not just the individual (Section 2). Yet Bernhard claims only to be as anti-establishment as anybody else is (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). He does not regard his ‘anti-motives’ as a result of his work, but merely as a natural motivation for an individual surviving (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
Money, as much as it might appear at first glance, is not Bernhard’s real motivation (Bernhard 2002). He needs it to live and finance his research and art ventures but otherwise sees it as a distraction (Bernhard 2002). Bernhard explains (Bernhard 2002):
My true motivations are freedom. [T]he freedom to research what and how and when and where I want. [T]o publish where and what I want, to say what I want, where and how I want it. [T]hat is my pure and true motivation
Beuys shared a similar thought to creative freedom (Section 2).
What Bernhard believes drives him into the right topics, pictures, words and content is his honesty with himself in constantly thinking about getting more money and fame (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
Bernhard intentionally does not only focus on visual aspects, but on what he calls gesamtkunstwerk, which means the overall art concept (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). This acts as a meta-level (similar anthroposophy theory of Beuys) that brings all his legal, corporate, and aesthetic art forms and activities together (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). In general his core focus is on global structures but also on the production and maintenance of them. Firstly looked at from a business, financial and profit driven angle and secondly from a purely artistic one (Bernhard 2002).
Bernhard has been called a maverick businessman, the Etoy promotions hammer and even the “nasty shock marketing maniac” by media platforms such as Wired magazine, the Washington Post, underground Italian magazines and German theoretical publications (Ubermorgen 2002). Old-school corporations willing to pay their excessive fees have gotten some of Ubermorgens communications strategies better known as a character marketing, drama marketing and most effective – shock marketing – by which you shock the user, and due to this shock the users channels are wide open so any information can be fed into the users brain (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). The Internet today is structured in such a way, that shock marketing can be used by artists; activists; terrorists; and by any of the other millions of naïve users that surf it each day (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
Ubermorgens approach and projects are so dangerous and radical that possible areas of attack by enemy companies or governments need to be distributed for liability reasons, so a series of Ubermorgen holding companies were established in Vienna, Austria; and in Sofia, Bulgaria (Bernhard 2002).
French philosopher Jean Buadrillad said in Cannes 2000 that (Bernhard 2002):
Ubermorgen means the day after tomorrow, a slight tip towards their aesthetic and activist vision and prejudice, they are hardcore and radical in their actions and they are extremely strange and highly intelligent people
Bernhard however prefers the term uniqueness, unique not because of what Ubermorgen does but because how, when and where they do it (Bernhard 2002).
Ubermorgen’s uber-slogan originates from a CNN interview questioning the Vote Auction simulations that Bernhard pursued: “its different because its fundamentally different” (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
Section 4. The Workplace
The author of this essay believes that these two individuals can only be likened and compared in context. The state of the world and its politics; the degree of globalisation development; and the combined cost of the above to humanity and human relationships at the same time, are the three most pivotal factors that need understanding.
Beuys’ vision of the future from back in the 70’s (Section 2) can still be seen as impressively intuitive, but Bernhard’s is far more accurate and/or up to date. Bernhard believes that mankind is looking at and living in a highly political decade (Bernhard 2002) where global wars will only get worse. Military conflicts between the police [USA] and resisting forces [nations, institutions, networks] will heat up, while conflicts between Europe and the US will arise (Bernhard 2002).
Beuys was an artist who displayed, performed, and exhibited his works and beliefs in galleries and institutions, to groups who still relied on the spoken word of mouth and the live real-time experience. Others interested would visit his exhibitions to interact and experience his work for themselves. However as time has unfolded, the growth of globalisation and its trends have decreased personal interaction with human beings and real live experiences drastically – to the point where greeting grocery store staff is unnecessary thanks to shopping online, and the adventure of experiencing overseas or the outdoors is lost by downloads available on screen at home for nothing more than the price of a phone call.
Beuys elucidated the passage (of his work) from a personal experience to a more fundamental and universal human experience that is paradigmatic of his work on the whole (Luckenbach 1997). The author of this essay believes that a similar description could be given to that of Bernhard’s work across world media.
Today, Bernhard, through media hacking likes causing chaos by misusing the “pseudo” freedom of the net (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). Media hackers exploit weak spots within social, commercial, political and technical networks implementing disinformation via these subverted interfaces. Completely different to Beuys, media hackers, like Bernhard, have dealt with the effects of globalisation on human communications by forcing their work and beliefs on people via the systems (world wide web and media) that they depend on most (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
In Joseph Beuys’ discovery of performance art, he combined the theatrical elements of time and space with props and a directional score (Luckenbach 1997). His own function as the artist shifts into a new dimension as a ‘performer-shaman’. Layering and manipulating “fragments”, he acted out a ritual, which simultaneously is the creation of a new work of art (Luckenbach 1997). Beuys’ goal was to erase the line separating art and life in the tradition of the radical modernists Marcel Duchamp and Bertold Brecht, whose evolutionary steps led to the erasure of this line. But Beuys’ “gesamtkunstwerk” (total art work) was the creation of a symbiotic whole – art as a model for life (Luckenbach 1997).
For a period of four months in 1996, the Etoy gang legally hacked into five major search engines devising a trap for net travellers and technology tourists of the time (Bernhard 2002). With the twilight zone of the medium forming the place of action, search engines were transformed into a stage, designed as a merger between a Hollywood action movie script and a real life airplane hijacking (Bernhard 2002). This was a shocking experience and a violent attack on the innocent Internet user of the time. It became known as the digital hijack – and the members of Etoy as the first street gang on the information super highway (Etoy 2001). The role of a ‘performance’ remains very similar as it occurs here through time and space on the internet, only the stage has evolved and changed as a result of technology, into a stage on screen. Where Beuys used art to create a model for life, Bernhard and other Etoy operators used art (design and hacking) to insert some humane uncertainty of life back into the inhuman, super reliable, information super highway (Etoy 2002).
Bernhard illustrated the ‘performer-shaman’ understanding of Beuys’ in another work of his. During a presentation, at the Design Indaba 2002 in Cape Town, of a CNN exclusive video interview with Hans Bernhard on his Vote Auction project, Bernhard had arranged for two designers from very different institutions, namely Joshua Davies from Praystation and Tom Roope of Tomato, to assist him in shaving his head clean on stage in front of the audience (Bernhard 2002). The Ubermorgen group then approached the Museum of Modern Art with the shaved hair of Bernhards as a first ever collaboration artwork between Praystation and Tomato (Bernhard 2002).
In language, semantics are the vehicle by which sounds are given form and thoughts are given meaning, allowing communication to take place (Luckenbach 1997). Beuys equated the phenomenon of language with evolution, as a catalyst that moulds and propels human society (Luckenbach 1997). Believing that the concept of people is elementally coupled with its language, the looming horrors of World War II aided Beuys’ choice of sculpture (as it starts with speaking and thinking), to provide for ideas to take shape through the forward looking images that present themselves through it as a result (Luckenbach 1997).
Bernhard again has a likeness to this line of thinking only his work has an extremely controversial (unpopular reaction) and deliberate motive behind it. However he develops it further, instead of just providing a vehicle for his ideas to generate on or take shape through, he set up a simulation of his work and let its trial in reality prove his controversial message correct. In spring 2000, an American art student invented a platform for American citizens to offer and sell their individual votes during the US presidential election that same year (Bernhard 2002). On November 7th companies, political parties, and individuals could then auction off these votes via the Vote-Auction website and buy whole states. But due to heavy government official pressure, James Baumgartner (the inventor) offered the then very small venture to the Ubermorgen group (Bernhard 2002). Ubermorgen, at the time, had no idea that this was the pay dirt that they had been looking for.
Ubermorgen then took control over Vote-Auction and pushed the limits, in terms of shock marketing and public relations to a global mass media level never seen before – with the core message “bringing capitalism and democracy closer together!” (Bernhard 2002) American principles of capitalism and democracy were already tightly intertwined, like most democratic countries corruption of the election process was legal for large corporations but illegal for individuals (Bernhard 2002). ‘Vote-Auction just wanted a perfect market for votes, it would never be political, just purely business, art and market orientated, with no underlying ideology, just a strong belief in declaration’ (Design Indaba Magazine 2001). For liability reasons Ubermorgen immediately set up Vote-Auction LTD in Bulgaria even though most lawsuits were on Bernhard and Baumgartner alone (Bernhard 2002). During those four months temporary injunctions, court complaints and many other legal threats were received from thirteen state attorneys. Federal attorney Janet Reno, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency investigated the case. Ubermorgen suspected a break and entry into their own servers and questioned why two domains were illegally shutdown by United States authorities (Bernhard 2002). The term Media hacking came about while Ubermorgen were developing the story in real-time and watching it later or the next morning on CNN world report (Bernhard 2002). During those four months an expected 500 million people were reached with the Vote-Auction brand and pervert commercial message (Design Indaba Magazine2001). All that amassed was an endless story without any proof of illegal activites, all Vote-Auction representatives were only named plaintiffs (Bernhard 2002). E-mails from veterans of World War II read about the aesthetics of the war for democracy and how Vote-Auction was destroying it. Amongst these came the occasional death threat, mainly because of the very painful visuals inserted by Ubermorgen into the initial website design which was not manipulated much in order to keep it authentic (Bernhard 2002). ‘The global media, played the ultimate pop soundtrack to this techno-political-action-thriller (Bernhard 2002). Beuysian thought on Social Sculpture (Section 2) seems far from a reality after an experiment like this proves itself successful. Vote-Auction becomes a digital sculptural vehicle upon which ideas can formulate for an answer to a polluted society.
After a project like this Bernhards view on corporate censorship remains senseless, saying that sometimes it makes no sense to talk about the ethical values of a semi-technical action as censorship, as the technical aspect overrules the ethical one – what he prefers, is the practical (or pragmatic) approach (Design Indaba Magazine 2001).
However, within Beuys’ work, language and communication were often entirely discrete entities (Luckenbach 1997). Language was one possible vehicle for communication; it functioned as a catalyst, whereas communication was more profound, elemental, and universal – fundamentally biological (Luckenbach 1997).
Beuys’ Multiples were devices of communication, vehicles for the distribution of ideas that could reach an even wider group of people than could a single work of art (Luckenbach 1997). Yet all of Beuys’ objects had meaning only in relation to his ideas; the objects, however widely distributed, always return to the maker. This created a circular motion consisting of Beuys’ art, his persona, and the metaphors that weave in and out of his work (Luckenbach 1997).
One vehicle for the distribution of ideas that supersedes all others is that of the Internet. Hans Bernhard continuously hijacks this vehicle for the very reason that it allows him to express himself, through his projects, and the concepts behind them.
Characteristically of Bernhard, his use of a ‘Beuys like multiples’ approach also had a subversive tilt. Running as an experiment on the rate of viral distribution on the net, a staged conspiracy on the biggest PC software manufacturer was used to attract attention to a website and project of the Ubermorgen group. Bernhard explains (Design Indaba Magazine 2001): Media hackers cannot be afraid of playing with information and information distribution, but rather have to be able to witfully play with these mechanisms.
In 1999 a press release was issued in the name of the jury of the ARS Electronica in Linz. Being the most important new media art festival and new media art award, Ubermorgen’s initial press release was headlined “Linux wins pris ars electronica due to Microsoft intervention”. Sent out in the name of the head of the Jury to journalists, media and cultural people in the global tech-community, the e-mail was very detailed and in-depth and described the potential bribery of the net capital jury. Six hours after the release the first stories claiming this e-mail to be a fake appeared in international media-art and technology publications, but this was even to late, the virus had been spread. On the opening Monday morning of the festival over 250 journalists requested information concerning this press release. Multiplication of the e-mail had gone into the two digit million figure by viral distribution. Not even the obvious fake character of this message could stop hundreds of articles being published about it worldwide. Representatives of the Etoy-corporation were questioned aggressively of any responsibility for this act. This was just a teaser action to show off Ubermorgens capabilities in terms of communications and perversion. In fact, the use of these guerrilla marketing tactics was merely just to soft launch the brand Etxtreme.ru and co-brand it with Linux. Etxtreme was one of the early content creations of the Ubermorgen group.
Section 5. Conclusion
Time seems to be all that stands between these two individuals, however, what has happened and changed in the world during that time seems to make the short distance between them seem a little further than it really is. Beuys came across to the world with greater ease and less tension, never ‘attacking’ anyone and therefore was always seen as a fairly passive artist with potentially revolutionary beliefs – but never as a serious threat to any governments or institutions. Where presently, Bernhard is seen entirely as a threat as he lashes out and attacks those government institutions with his potentially revolutionary actions. Beuys and Bernhard have very similar long-term goals and motivations but their places in time/history don’t allow for that likeness to be seen easily.
Realistically designers are fundamentally different to artists in some ways, for example: designers and architects are normally more constructive and/or goal orientated with what they do, often demanding or needing feedback and some response to work that they have completed, as they do have responsibilities as designers to sell or make immediate contact/impact. Whereas an artist, is more concerned with the message that they leave from themselves within their artwork, and not necessarily with what they get out of it.
Beuys’ dream of a singular social structure has arrived, only at a very heavy price. People in general have lost their individuality and freedoms – as political and capitalist ventures control and regulate almost everything. Though those individuals that have not lost their will to embrace those freedoms (Bernhard) are seen as going against the grain, in effect being labelled troublemakers. Bernhard ideally, if not intentionally through his work, is only searching for the freedom that Beuys once had dressed as a Shepard boy in his youth wandering the hillsides. Old popularity of gallery exhibitions moved online into the world-wide-web as mankind continues to surround and engross him self with such technologies. This can explain why Bernhard continuously looks for the loopholes within the globalisation-trend-bubble and then exploits them. Though globalisation has not only made the current world smaller and faster but it has also blurred the distance between the past and present.
Beuys placed so much importance on language and communication that it could be understood as a growing interest in the history of graphic design (these two being the main aspects of graphic design history). Globalisation might not have been as active as it is today but this interest of Beuys’ suggests that the conceptual barrier between art and design was being broken down even then.
In a world where physically coming closer together is actually driving us personally further apart, communication of any sort becomes increasingly important – whether you are a designer, artist or just someone asking for directions on a street corner.
Ultimately, the quest for communicating effectively with ourselves, and the world around us might be the cataclysmic goal that designers and artists must reach together, in order for any such barriers between art and design to ever be cleared for good.
- Allen, R. 2000. The New Penguin English Dictionary. Finland: WS Bookwell.
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