The exhibition In The Dark Of Light takes its inspiration from Joseph Beuys’s sketchbooks, Projekt Westmensch, produced between 1958-1964 in his studio in the Kurhaus Kleve. The four sketchbooks contain many ideas that were to appear in numerous works throughout his career. Metamorphosis, or the phenomenon of transformation, is notably present in these early documents and is primarily derived from Goethe’s botanical studies, Metamorphosis of Plants (1790). Describing the principles that underlie the development of plants, Goethe considered the dynamic shift between expansion and contraction as essential to all of life, postulating that the creative forces of a plant are most contracted in its seed, whereas the final stage of expansion are found in the fruit, which in turn contains the seeds that will henceforth continue the cycle of expansion and contraction. From the vantage point of the mid 20th century, Beuys returned to Goethe’s observations, inspired by his imaginative, if scientifically inaccurate, insights, integrating these concepts into his drawings, installations, and performances.

In Projekt Westmensch, Beuys further develops Goethe’s notion of metamorphosis, expanding it to include animate and inanimate objects as well as material and immaterial forces. The German term Bildekraft expresses the idea of a creative force that initiates change. Not only does the term frequently appear Beuys’s work, the concept of metamorphosis was central to Beuys and his art practice throughout his career. It is present in the four sketchbooks and remains a consistent theme in his work, as observed in 7000 Oaks, begun in 1982 and completed in 1987, shortly after his death.

Inspired by Goethe and Beuys, In The Dark Of Light investigates the phenomenon of metamorphosis. Using plant life as a departure point, the exhibition concentrates on metamorphoses of the mind. Thoughts and sensations are neither personal nor psychological, but can be viewed as pre-personal affects, or what Carl Gustav Jung referred to as archetypes of the collective unconscious. These dreams, symbols, and sensations appear and reappear in accounts by individuals in diverse societies, whether modern, primitive, capitalist, socialist or archaic, suggesting that the world, in spite of its observably fragmented nature, may still harbor universal phenomena after all.

Published in the Art Catalog:

Tara Mahapatra: In the Dark of Light
Texts by John Fray, Harald Kunde and Tara Mahapatra
Graphic Design by Christoph Stolberg
2014. 88 pp.,hardcover
24.60 x 32.70 cm / ISBN 978-3-934935-70-9