Susan Hiller

Genuine Essence: Homage to Joseph Beuys 1969 - 2009
First Aid: Homage to Joseph Beuys 1969-2009



Genuine Essence: Homage to Joseph Beuys 1969 - 2009
felt-lined wooden cabinet, 45 cm x 35 cm x 15 cm; containing 60 bottles of various sizes
filled with water I collected from sacred sources around the world


detail

First Aid: Homage to Joseph Beuys 1969-2009
Felt-lined wooden cabinet 26 x 18 x x 8 cm containing 47 bottles of various sizes filled with water collected in Ireland, Mexico, Morocco, France, etc; organic felt bandage strips



I met Joseph Beuys only once, when Sandy Nairn introduced me to him at the ICA in 1974. Everyone knows about his work or rather his attitude towards art, life, and everything else. The little bottles of water in my piece refer to the way he made symbolic use of matter-of-fact materials, sacramentalizing everyday activities and storing up energy in ordinary objects.

When I collect water from a holy well or sacred spring, I'm in the process of trying to turn banal tourism into a quest or pilgrimage. The waters supposedly produce powerful effects for believers, but what I treasure is the special mental space created by searching for them and thinking about them. These little bottles of waters are more than just souvenirs; they are containers of an idea about the potentials hidden in ordinary things and experiences.