On 9 January 1974, Joseph Beuys, together with Klaus Staeck and Gerhard Steidl, traveled for the first time to America. This trip was by no means a mere visit, but a carefully planned performance that took place in airplanes, taxis, hotels, universities and galleries, and was comprehensively documented in photographs and video. The tour began with a packed lecture at New York’s New School, visited by artists including Claes Oldenburg, Lil Picard and Al Hansen, in which Beuys enthralled his audience for hours explaining his specific model of social sculpture and filling three large blackboard with drawings.
The next stop was Chicago, the site of more controversial lectures and an unexpected performance: on happening to pass the Biograph movie theatre, Beuys spontaneously reenacted the death of American gangster John Dillinger who had been cornered by police in the theatre, chased into a nearby alley and shot dead. Beuys’ tour then reached Minneapolis, with more press conferences, discussions and extended walks through Dayton’s department store. Upon returning to Germany, the hundreds of photographs and many hours of videotape were assembled, and yet Beuys, ever engaged in new projects, somehow never found time to edit them. It was only in October 1985, shortly before his death, that he had finalized the sequence for the book. Originally published in 1987, this new Steidl edition has been wholly re-conceived by Klaus Staeck and Gerhard Steidl.
In America I discovered a lot of things which, in a way, lay hidden inside of me. Just so when you look into the ground, watch the formation of ice, feel certain natural powers and experience totally different tensions. – Joseph Beuys