"I like America and America likes me": Joseph Beuys’ Selbstinszenierung als Schamane und Indianer im Kontext deutscher Erinnerungskultur


  • Kea Wienand




In 1974 Joseph Beuys staged his performance I like America and America likes me at the newly-opened René Block Gallery in New York. For three days he stayed in a small room together with a coyote. The performance has become widely known since then and particularly in recent years a film documentation has been shown in quite a number of exhibitions in Germany. My paper focuses both on the images of cultural difference that Beuys’ action provides and on the colonial fantasies that are produced or referred to through its reception within the art historical discourse. I will analyse how these images and fantasies are interwined with myths of the artist as sufferer and healer, and explore their specific function within German commemorative culture. In using Sigmund Freud’s concept of Deckerinnerung (screen-memory), I will argue that the images and fantasies of the Other which the performance produces and invokes, provide an opportunity for the German audience to deny and replace the problematic recent past – here: the history of National Socialism and of the Shoah – and to imagine themselves as victims.