The German performance artist, sculptor and drawer Joseph Heinrich Beuys (1921 - 1986) is considered worldwide to be one of the most important performance artists of the 20th century.
After school, Joseph Beuys volunteered for the Air Force in 1941, then was released from British captivity in 1945. In 1946 Beuys enrolled at the State Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and began studying monumental sculpture. Ewald Mataré appointed Joseph Beuys as his master student in 1951. Together with Erwin Heerich, Beuys moved into his master student studio under the roof of the art academy until 1954. In 1961 he was appointed professor of monumental sculpture at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In the course of his numerous political projects and his attempt to democratize the academy, he opened his Düsseldorf class to all applicants, which led to his immediate dismissal in 1972. In the winter semester of 1974, Beuys received a guest professorship at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg.
Joseph Beuys' extensive oeuvre includes paintings and drawings, objects and installations, and in particular his many actions and social-political activities. In 1958 he used grease and felt as artistic materials for the first time. He performed his first actions in 1963 during the FESTUM FLUXORUM FLUXUS, scheduled for two evenings, in the Aula of the Academy. In later Fluxus actions, Beuys worked with acoustic compositions and noise collages, incorporating microphones, tape recorders, feedback, various musical instruments, and his own voice. In the context of the Fluxus movement, he further developed his action art in the following years, using materials foreign to art such as copper, grease, felt, and honey, which, like his actions, were charged with complex symbolic meanings. Joseph Beuys' actions can be seen as the core of his oeuvre. Several objects in his installations as well as various objects and relics in showcases are remnants of earlier actions.
In 1967 Beuys founded the German Student Party (DSP) as a reaction to the smoldering student unrest - with Joseph Beuys (1st chairman), Johannes Stüttgen (2nd chairman) and Bazon Brock (3rd chairman). In order to dissolve the restriction to students*, Beuys renamed the German Student Party in March 1970 to Organization of Nonvoters, Free Popular Vote. In 1971, the Organization for Direct Democracy through Referendum was founded, into which the Organization of Nonvoters was merged. In 1973, Joseph Beuys, together with Klaus Staeck, Georg Meistermann and Willi Bongard, founded the Free International University (FIU) or Freie Internationale Hochschule für Kreativität und interdisziplinäre Forschung. The FIU existed as a registered association until 1988. In 1979, Joseph Beuys ran for the European Parliament as a direct candidate for The Greens.
The two central aspects of Joseph Beuys' art are the definition of an expanded concept of art and the conception of social sculpture as a total work of art. Within this framework, he called for creative participation in society and in politics.