Joseph Beuys Voglio vedere le mie montagne

Joseph Beuys, Voglio vedere le mie montagne (I want to see my mountains) 1950–71

Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands © DACS 2005

I Want to See My Mountains 

This is Beuys’s first room-sized installation. It is one of his most directly autobiographical works, bringing together furniture from his early life in Cleves and from the studio in which he worked during the 1950s. The objects, positioned on copper sheets (a conductor of energy), are all associated with Beuys’s personal development.

The title derives from the last words of the nineteenth-century Italian painter Giovanni Segantini who, while dying in Switzerland, demanded to be brought closer to the window to see the mountains. Beuys once said that a mountain ‘taken as inner psychology…represents a high pitch of consciousness…. And when I make an environment called voglio vedere le mie montagne [I Want to See My Mountains] I mean an inner archetype of the idea of mountain: the mountains of the self.’

This metaphor, linking Beuys’s inner growth to the exploration of a vast landscape, is developed throughout the installation. A series of chalk inscriptions make explicit connections between the intimate personal space of the room and features of the natural world. The wardrobe is marked ‘Vadrec(t)’, a Celtic word for glacier. The packing case is marked ‘Felsen’, or cliff. The bed is ‘Walun’ – valley. A wooden box, containing (unseen) a human bone and a piece of bog oak, is ‘Sciora’ – a mountain chain in Switzerland. The word ‘Cime’, or peaks, is written on the back of the mirror. ‘Denken’ or ‘Thinking’, written on the butt of a hunting rifle, has been seen as Beuys’s ironic dismissal of abstract thought.