Felt spaces: Joseph Beuys



'Plight' by Joseph Beuys, 1985


It’s impossible to explore designers using felt in architectural contexts without discussing Joseph Beuys.  In the book ‘Filz, Arts, Crafts and Design’ ed Katharina Thomas states:

one might be tempted to ask whether the rediscovery of a material which long before Joseph Beuys declared it a symbol of warmth, life, cosiness and security has anything to do with the increasing coldness that is seeping into our social fabric.’   

In an interview conducted by William Furlong on the occasion of the ‘Plight’ exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay gallery, Joseph Beuys explains how the installation came about. If you click on this link you will be taken to the full transcript.

It all started as a joke, being related to the difficulties that the gallery was in when the very noisy reconstruction of the building behind Anthony’s wall was taking place. The reconstruction of buildings close by will remain for the near future. Anthony, who was despairing, asked me if it would not be better to go away from this place. I told him that I did not think that was necessary and I said, you have to stand it for a while. The place is good and the connections from this gallery to the other galleries are okay so there is no reason to move just because there is a noise for, say, two years perhaps. So then I made a joke and said I can easily make a kind of muffling sculpture. I had the idea of a muffling sculpture with felt and also to make it as a big exhibition – that was a joke. Then we forgot about it and didn’t speak of it any more. Then only three weeks before I received a letter from Judy Adam, Anthony’s assistant, and she mentioned earnestly that it would be interesting to make a third installation with this kind of meaning – insulation from outside influences such as danger, noise, or temperature or whatever. Then I decided to make this piece, so I developed this kind of installation…..The show includes my most beloved and most powerful material, that is felt.’

he goes on to explain the effect of being in the space:

“You have a kind of acoustic effect, because everything is muffled down. Then there is the effect of warmness. As soon as there are more than twenty people in the room the temperature will rise immediately. Then there is the sound as an element muffling away the noise and the sound. So this concert hall – I could also call it a concert hall – muffles down the sounds almost to zero. And to express this the grand piano is inside with a score on it. There are lines for notations on this blackboard but there are no notes. There is nothing on it, and instead of this there is a fever thermometer on it to stress that the warm quality is the most important quality for me and is a very important criterion for the quality of sculpture. One person will feel more this kind of accommodation of warmth and other people will find it sucks away the sound. Other people will feel, let’s say, even becoming oppressed, because there is also a negative aspect in the original idea and isolation. The negative side is the padded cell, which is a kind of torture thing.”


One Response to “Felt spaces: Joseph Beuys”

  1. 1 Julia Moszkowicz

    Hi Anna – What an impressive blog! You are certainly covering a lot of ground. The Slow Design references are interesting … and the examples you have found are comprehensive – wow! A good use of visual imagery here. Really elucidates the main thrust of your text. Good for you. I enjoyed reading this. Julia x

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