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Artist: Joseph Beuys


Jorg Schellmann

Institution Walker Art Center
Jorg Schellmann and Bernd Kluser: Why doesn't the Felt Suit have buttons?

Joseph Beuys: Well, that was dictated by the character of felt. That occurred quite naturally. It was tailored after my own suit and I think the whole thing has to retain the character of felt, in the sense that felt doesn't strive to be smart, so to speak. One has to conserve the character, omit mere trifles, such as complicated buttons, buttonholes, and so on. And if somebody wants to wear the suit, he can fasten it with safety pins.

S, K: Does the association with convicts' uniforms, on which the buttons and braces have been cut off as a sign of disgrace, apply?

B: Of course I thought of that, but there's no direct relation. It isn't meant to be a suit which people wear. The suit is meant to be an object which one is precisely not supposed to wear. One can wear it, but in a relatively short time it'll lose its shape because felt is not a material which holds a form. Felt isn't woven. It's pressed together usually from hare or rabbit hair. It's precisely that, and it isn't suited for buttonholes and the like.

S, K: How should one take care of the Felt Suit?

B: I don't care. You can nail the suit to the wall. You can also hang it on a hanger, ad libitum! But you can also wear it or throw it into a chest.

S, K: Does the suit's felt material play the role of insulating the physical warmth of a person?

B: The character of warming--yes, that's obvious. The Felt Suit is not just a gag. It's an extension of the felt sculptures I made during my performances. There, felt also appeared as an element of warmth or as an insulator. Felt was used in all the categories of warmth sculpture, usually in connection with fat, and it's a derivative of that. So it does have a bearing on the character of warmth. Ultimately the concept of warmth goes even further. Not even physical warmth; I could just as well have used an infrared light in my performances. Actually, I mean a completely different kind of warmth, namely spiritual warmth or the beginning of an evolution.

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Type: Dialogue/Interview, interview
Source: Excerpt from an interview with Joseph Beuys by Jorg Schellmann and Bernd Kluser, from the website Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, 2003.
Rights: Copyright 2003 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009