Whilst walking around the gallery on Saturday talking with visitors, I was struck by the variety of the responses to Beuys and maybe that’s as it should be.  There were quite a few people familiar with the philosophy of his work and though I got the impression that for some, Beuys is Here felt like visiting a foreign land without a phrase book, still there were others who were intrigued enough to find their own way into his ideas.  When people wanted a definitive answer to what I feel to be the near impossible question “What is it about?”, my response was that this exhibition really forces me to think and that is what I think it is about.

There was plenty of robust exchange at Speakers Corner and I’d like to thank everyone who took part, especially our guest speaker, the homeopath Alex Wear. Alex explored how we engage with nature and the disastrous impact he sees in our continuing abuse of the environment.  He discussed the connection between our actions and the world as it is functioning(or not) and how pollution and excessive use of chemicals can have a devastating effect upon our health. He is concerned that future generations will inherit a sick and dangerous world if we do not make radical changes to how we think and behave.
The discussion opened up to the floor and there were many responses to the issue of how we begin to think differently and change for the better.  Many expressed the view that change is necessary, but for a while it seemed like there were more questions than answers. Initially, people expressed a lack of faith in those who hold power and their motives, on the negative impact of the media.  The debate shifted to the idea that we waste valuable energy and time apportioning blame – far better to take personal responsibility for the solutions we must find than to distance ourselves from the problem.  Though intellectual solutions alone are not the answer, neither is responding in an entirely emotional way – balance and proportion were valued by many. Talk to each other, think about changing systems, lobby your MP.  

One speaker felt that there was a quiet revolution happening; that the general public seems to be turning to alternative therapies much more and she felt this had a positive impact on the collective consciousness.  There were others that wanted to see practical solutions to the issues we face: leading by example, opening up debate and organising change at a local level, making ethical choices as a consumer – again returning to the need for personal responsibility.
It was widely agreed that the time has come for people to direct their  focus away from personal gain but the problem lies in how best to do this. How do we harness individual creativity and experience, not just within the education system (though that is essential), but also within the community and across all ages? 
What I took away from the afternoon was the importance of thinking with your head and heart in equal measure.  “Get involved” seemed to be a recurring theme along with the need begin the change with oneself, all very much in keeping with the spirit of Beuys. 
 Thanks once more to those who took part.  Apologies for any omissions, please feel free to add any contributions you may have or expand on any of the themes noted.  
Posted by Ryan Coleman on Monday 13 July 2009