We live in a sterile age. Nothing reminds one of this fact like the work of the German artist Joseph Beuys. It is anything but sterile – dirt, earth, organic matter were at its center. Beuys wallowed in the dirt – it was his connection to the planet we were busy ruining, as he liked to remind us.
A new book, or rather four books in a box, called Four Books in a Box, published by Steidl, and out today, reminds us of this message. Prosaically called, the compendium is anything but prosaic. As an object it is also earthy. There is not a hint of gloss in its sturdy case, fabric covers, and mostly black and white pages. As the hand passes over the pages, one feels its presence, its thingness, its physical presence in the physical universe.