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Joseph Beuys was the original of the daft, cod-political art world we now know so well. But he did it first, and best, and silliness has not diminished his importance

By Ben Lewis   May 2005

I remember the day Joseph Beuys died the way my mother remembers Elvis’s passing. It was a winter’s day in 1986, and I was an amateur performance artist. I felt art would never be the same again. Shortly thereafter I performed a work in tribute, entitled No Replacement for Beuys, in which I donned a grey polyester suit, splashed it liberally with fake blood and then wrapped myself in bandages. The performance ended when I deliberately threw myself off the edge of the stage and hurt my knees. Little did I know then that my terrible aktion was simply one…

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