Conceptual art - just the thing to take personally

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Indy Lifestyle Online
n I DIDN'T realise until the other day what everyone else apparently does - that the German artist and Second World War pilot Joseph Beuys attributed his habitual use of fat and felt to a wartime crash. He was saved by a band of Tartars, who treated his burns and exposure by covering his body with fat, then wrapping him in felt.

I'd always assumed that the fat and the felt in his art represented the destroyed humanity of the death camps - the fat being rendered human physicality and the felt rendered human clothing.

The great thing about conceptual art, though, is that my interpretation - lacking as it was in the salient facts - remains entirely undamaged by this new knowledge. Indeed, I feel confident about challenging the dead artist, and suggesting that despite his status as one of the post- war German artists who really faced up to what his country had done, he too was in denial.

Maybe that's why conceptual art is so very popular now. One is always right, no matter the facts, when one projects a meaning on to a piece. In our relativistic, all-shall-win-prizes culture, such elasticity of interpretation flatters everybody.

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