Joseph Beuys Zeige deine Wunde

Joseph Beuys, Zeige deine Wunde (Show Your Wound) 1974–5
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus © DACS, 2005

Show Your Wound 1974-75

Beuys originally created the environment Show Your Wound for a desolate underground passage in Munich. Its aura of melancholy and mourning arises from its subject matter: death, decay and a sense of trauma that Beuys referred to as the ‘wound’.

The ‘wound’ is a recurring theme in Beuys’s work and holds many associations, from individual illness and physical injury to collective grief. Beuys was wounded a number of times during the Second World War, and in the 1950s, he had a serious psychological breakdown. In 1975, the year Show Your Wound was completed, he suffered a heart-attack.

Beuys was one of the first German artists to reflect on his country’s recent political history in his work, and more specifically to focus on German responsibility for the Holocaust. The blackboards incorporated into this installation seem to be a call to action, a call for the German nation to ‘show your wound’. In this way, the work functions as an act of remembrance and a vehicle for mourning.

As in many of Beuys’s sculptural works, objects are presented as doubles. These include paired agricultural implements, twin blackboards and two mortuary dissection-tables, below which are double sets of containers filled with fat, as if bodily fluids had drained into them. Beuys often employed the concept of double identity to signal opposition and unresolved conflict.