ulysses black

ulysses black

word. image. action

 the ritual lens: joseph beuys & the marriage of difference


As part of the Ulysses Black Initiative, I have produced a small zine / booklet that contains an academic essay I wrote eleven years ago on the subject of ritual.

Using the performance I Like America and America Likes Me by performance artist Joseph Beuys, the essay explores how opposition / difference / antinomy play a role in ritual.

The famous performance by Beuys saw him locked in a New York loft with a wild coyote and a collection of Beuysian objects to manipulate. Beuys created a series of ritualised movements which he carried out with regularity. These provoked varied, often agressive and unpredictable responses from the coyote, causing Beuys to deviate from sequence. These deviations were then incorporated into subsequent iterations of the ritualised sequence of actions. This sequence then evolved as a performative dailogue between the artist and the coyote. Caroline Tisdall visually documented this in her picture ‘Coyote’ which deals with this performance.

The 24pp booklet, with colour covers and b/w throughout has the following subsections:

The ritual terrain:I like America and America Likes Me
Antinomy in Ritual Studies
Opening Space through Opposition
Adherence and Deviation
Arousal and Quiescence: The Autonomic Systems
Back to Beuys
Oscillating Oppositions in Ritual
Toward Action
Selected Bibliography

The booklet also features an illustration of the author covered in honey delivering a presentation on Joseph Beuys, emulating Beuys own presentation of his own work in the performance entitled How to Explain Pictures to Dead Hare. This was a life-changing moment for me.

Copies of the zine are available for £3.50+p&p here