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Das Erdtelephon
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Das Erdtelephon
The Earth Telephone

Joseph Beuys, German, 1921 - 1986

Made in Germany, Europe


Siemens telephone, earth clod with grass and roots, wooden plank

7 7/8 × 30 × 19 1/4 inches (20 × 76.2 × 48.9 cm)

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Curatorial Department:
Contemporary Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Keith L. and Katherine Sachs, 2013

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Erdtelephon exemplifies Joseph Beuys’s understanding of sculpture as active material and potential energy rather than as a static shape. For Beuys, this piece constituted a material statement on the nature of energy. It is a “social sculpture”—a concept of art as an interdisciplinary and participatory process. Earth and telephone are paired as visual manifestations of the transforming power of human communication. The artist believed that every individual possesses creative power and, as such, is responsible for helping to create a democratic, sustainable social order.