'Even a dead animal preserves more powers of intuition than some human beings with their stubborn rationality' Joseph Beuys said of the dead hare to which he silently explained his pictures in a famous action at the Galerie Schmela in Dusseldorf in 1965.
For Beuys the hare - the Eurasian hare - was a powerful symbol of inclusiveness and connectivity. An archetype and a totemic animal, the hare was, as a native species of both Europe and Asia an animal that crossed the East-West divide of the Eurasian continent in apparently effortless leaps and bounds. As such, like Beuys', copper Eurasian staff, symbolic of the inter-connective energy that Beuys believed could and should flow through the Eurasian continent, the hare was an important shamanistic symbol of ancient energy and untapped creative potential that makes its appearance in many of Beuys' most important works.
Primarily known for his installations and actions, Beuys' graphic creations, his drawings and paintings, which he produced periodically throughout his career, form a comparatively rare part of his oeuvre. They marked the beginning of his creative thought and the emergence of his philosophy of social sculpture in the 1950s, and continued to form an integral part of his thinking throughout the rest of his career, giving birth to sculptural ideas which would themselves develop into new graphic concepts, each returning to inform each other in what Beuys saw as an atemporal flow of creativity - a cyclical flow that was itself symbolic of the holistic nature of his work. As Beuys explained, 'I will begin at the end: from the drawings concepts have evolved, a plastic theory that returns to the drawings. These drawings show an infinite number of aspects of the world, they show an infinite number of aspects of topics, but I have tried to arrange them so that those concepts (that is, shamanistic concepts) that harken back, all these backward harkening constellations, are arranged so that formally they can awaken interest in the current consciousness of the viewer so that he becomes interested in a general view of man and time, not only presently, not only looking back historically, anthropologically, but also offering aspects for the future, offering solutions by way of an opening of problems. Opened thus, that interest orients itself towards a central point: the organization of human life evolving out of the future, happening through the present, and formulating new creative models for the formation of the present. Or one could say, to sculpt new models for the entirety of life' (Beuys, quoted in Thinking is Form, The Drawings of Joseph Beuys, exh. cat. New York, 1993, p. 111).