The Why?s Man

"My art is place specific and people specific." George Wyllie

Back to Words from George...


I wrote this quickly and exactly in November 1980. Soon afterwards I filled the Third Eye with A Day Down a Goldmine. This Personal Manifesto has staunchly remained with me.


A human being possesses three forms of energy:

  1. physical
  2. mental
  3. spiritual

Any being denied the outlet for these energies does not live fruitfully.

Any situation which requires human energy and denies all these three outlets is suspect.

In the main, situations which exacerbate the above include:

A. ignorance of human scale - which, when manifest, removes from others the right to do or think for themselves which in turn denies spirit and widens the gap between those permitted to think and do and consequently spiritually untroubled. (alienation).

B. a reluctance to accept approximation - the belief that there are precise and permanent answers to all questions removes the necessity for the questions. This denies the application of energy to problems considered to have been resolved and builds the institution. The main defence of the institution is respectability.

C. the monetary system - which is the basic institution in our capitalist world. It corrupts and distorts enterprise, art and leisure. It introduces dehumanising factors by way of obscene human scale (mass production lines etc.) and its working denies approximation (according etc.) (Although paradoxically at its highest level it is absolutely approximate, which indicates the validity and inevitability of approximation, albeit that for the majority precision applies).

It supports a false work ethnic which incorrectly assumes that the only entitlement to share. In nature's and men's productivity is through the money received for work, whether this work be necessary or not. This encourages 'sham' work (usually indulged by the 'clever') and necessitates a hand-out for non-work (the honest but dehumanised unemployed). It encourages the use of human energy and natural raw materials for unrequired products. Factors A and B are consequently dulled and so the process continues to de-spiritualise society.

These false forces which are wrongly believed to be necessary have the face of respectability and professionalism. They do not often have the face of evil. We are in the age of friendly evil.

Art, which recognises human scale, approximation, and which should have no dishonest relationship with capitalist system, cannot be practised under these conditions, or at best/worst in retrospect when gallery/market conditions allow.

My art is concerned with friendly evil and it will prod and poke and encourage others to do likewise. I have no illusions as to my human scale related to this task.

Institutions are strengthened by the acceptance of change or by the justifiable rejection of change. Established though can only benefit from responding to questions and new ideas. These need not be logical for there is more strength in random because it contains the possibility for invention. The greatest strength is in intuitive spirit. The ability for such acceptances is in art.

The invention of ideas need not, almost should not, be logical. There is more strength in the random because of its infinite possibility for invention, and which the retrospect of logic cannot match. The superb, human capacity to reason, and in the end to interpret and implement meaning, cannot be abdicated, but its seductive clarity must never dominate the essential diffusion of art. Thus the Being of the spirit of ourselves, and sensitivity to energy beyond ourselves, is ensured.

GW, 1980


(In 1981, a few months after writing the above, I came across Beuys' 'Appeal' in Caroline Tisdall's book and, give or take on brevity, order and emphasis, I found that he had declared similar beliefs. This explains my interest in Beuys' work. We exchanged copies of our statements later that year)

George Wyllie, 1991

Scul?ture Jubilee, 1966-1991 (Third Eye)

Joseph Beuys

George Wyllie Education Initiative

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