In creating this object, Beuys had visualised a new concept of art and had for the very first time confronted both the students of his class and the students of the Academy in general with his own specific notion of art materials and with the problem of transformation. It symbolised the end of the traditional concept of art, although it was not understood by many of his students and seemed to them as enigmatic as Beuys’s first action at the Art Academy on the 2nd and 3rd of February 1963, when his ‘Siberian Symphony 1st Movement’ during the Festum Fluxorum. Fluxus. Music and Antimusic. The Instrumental Theater had an explosive effect, not only calling traditional notions of art into question but also changing the artistic approach of his students and their way of working.
The years from 1965 to 1972
Despite these emerging changes, the main emphasis of Beuys’s academic course remained the teaching of basic and traditional artistic skills. These however were already yielding to an emphasis on artistic individuality, manifest in the utilisation of unusual materials. From the middle of the Sixties, Beuys’s ‘Extended Art Concept’ and ‘Theory of Sculpture’ began to play an increasingly important role in his teaching. Because of Beuys’s opinion that students should receive an all-around training – he therefore rejected a one-sidedly rational curriculum – he integrated irrational elements into the learning process, through his actions, for example.
The function of providing them with a theoretical framework in their search for their own ideological bearings was later to be assimilated by Beuys into his concept of ‘Social Sculpture’, by the German Students Party (DSP) founded by Beuys around the end of the Sixties, and by the organisations which developed from it.
Increasing political awareness among the students of the Academy from the middle of the Sixties onwards led to discussions in Beuys’s class on such matters as social reality, the concept of freedom and the principle of self-determination and also to such concrete political demands as a reform of the university and college system. These subjects came up mainly during the ‘correction discussions’ and dealt with such questions as Does art still have any relevance in our society?, or Can art help to revolutionise society? One of the causes of change was seen by Beuys to be the growing social and political awareness of his students against the background of the incipient protest movement and its highly intellectualised concern with the question of the role and function of art and the artist in society: ‘They ask themselves what art means. They have an instinctive urge to become artists. But fermenting inside all students is the moral question of whether it has any meaning for the others, for development, for society.’