“Everyone is …”

People tend to fall in two categories over Joseph Beuys words “Everyone is an artist”. Of course there will be some that don’t really believe in  or agree with either side of the statement,  some that only agree  little bit and some that just couldn’t be bothered answering the questionnaire. But still one either leans towards an agreement with his words or an head-shaking-grumbling-something-about-education-and-knowldege-kind-of- approach (giving you almost the extremes here…)
So when I read those words on the back cover of a book I am trying to read for over a year now, but never really got down to it, I started thinking on which side I stand. Let’s play something:

“Everyone is an architect”

“Everyone is a writer”

“Everyone is a doctor”

“Everyone is a builder”

“Everyone is a photographer”

“Everyone is a psychologist”

“Everyone is a police officer”

“Everyone is a painter”

“Everyone is a designer”

“Everyone is a novelist”

Everyone is a goldsmith”

“Everyone is a politician”

“Everyone is a car mechanic”

“Everyone is a dentist”

“Everyone is a historian”

“Everyone is a cook”

“Everyone is a manger”

“Everyone is an athlete”

“Everyone is a teacher”

“Everyone is an engineer”

“Everyone is a baker”

“Everyone is a plumber”

“Everyone is a psychiatrist”

“Everyone is a racing driver”

“Everyone is a pilot”

“Everyone is a barrister”

“Everyone is a nurse”

“Everyone is a hairdresser”

“Everyone is an electrician”

“Everyone is a sales accountant”

“Everyone is a shepard”

“Everyone is a fine artist”

“Everyone is a lorry driver”

“Everyone is a ceramicist”

“Everyone is a beautician”

“Everyone is a secretary”

“Everyone is an urban designer”

“Everyone is an archaeologist”

“Everyone is a vet”

“Everyone is a journalist”

“Everyone is a landscape architect”

“Everyone is a captain”

“Everyone is a philosopher”

“Everyone is a fashion designer”

“Everyone is a musician”

“Everyone is a fitness instructor”

“Everyone is a life guard”

“Everyone is a dancer”

“Everyone is a florist”

“Everyone is a crime scene investigator”

“Everyone is a software developer”

“Everyone is a timber merchant”

“Everyone is a spy”

“Everyone is a zoo keeper”

“Everyone is a waitress”

“Everyone is a banker”

“Everyone is a potter”

“Everyone is a factory supervisor”

“Everyone is a security guard”

“Everyone is a lecturer”

“Everyone is a three dimensional designer”

“Everyone is a butcher”

“Everyone is a post man”

“Everyone is an agent”

“Everyone is a sculptor”

“Everyone is a prison guard”

“Everyone is an actor”

“Everyone is jokey”

“Everyone is a meteorologist”

“Everyone is a coroner”

“Everyone is a brewer”

“Everyone is a PR intern”

“Everyone is a surgeon”

“Everyone is a wood carver”

“Everyone is a publisher”

“Everyone is a scientist”

“Everyone is an illustrator”

“Everyone is a farmer”

[Hmmm, I thought so ] To be able or refer to oneself as, let’s say’ an architect, one has to fulfil certain criteria, undergo a lengthy study, be recognised and registered. So no, not everyone is an architect. Similar principles apply to becoming a doctor, scientist, pilot and police officer. So no, not everyone can be one.  Even if it all made sense I our childhood dreams and fantasies – we could be anyone just by imagining so- and don’t tell me otherwise or I tell mum / dad/ uncle /______________ (insert any primary caregiver)  – , we grew up. Or are still growing up…well, let’s just say once being faced with daily life (routine) we tend to realise that we cannot be anyone we wish to be. It starts with school and which GCSE subjects one should keep, which ones to ditch,  which A-Levels will propel the career, which university to choose, or would an apprenticeship be more appropriate, take the job offer or carry one with a research degree… the list never ends, does it?! Well, it is always possible to change once course, after all I’m not really sure when I’ ever going to use my A Level in Economics, so one doesn’t signs one’s death when choosing to open a different or new door.
Don’t get me wrong though, I have nothing against Joseph Beuys or his work, on the contrary! I even considered studying for an MA in Social Sculpture, a postgraduate course which is informed by refection on the social sculpture ideas and work of the man himself.

“My objects are seen as stimulants for the transformation of ideas of sculpture, or of art in general. They should provoke thoughts about what sculpture an be and how the concept of sculpting can be extended to the invisible materials used by everyone:

Thinking Forms – how we mould our thoughts or

Spoken Forms – how we shape our thoughts into words or

SOCIAL SCULPTURE  how we mould and shape the world we live in: Sculpture as an evolutionary  process; everyone is an artist.

That is why the nature of my sculpture is not fixed and finished. Processes continue in most of them: chemical reactions, fermentations, colour changes, decay, drying up. Everything is in a state of change.”[i]

Flux. Instability. Fluidity. Unpredictability. Change.  Impulsiveness. Spontaneity. Suddenness. Unrest.

Context is the key concept: Take anything out of it and its meaning can change.

“Everyone is an artist” as a quote on the cover of a unrelated book “Everyone is an artist”as part of a statement by the artist
 “Everyone is a cook”“Everyone is a manger”

“Everyone is an athlete”

“Everyone is a teacher”

“Everyone is an engineer”

“Everyone is a baker”

“Everyone is a plumber”

“Everyone is a psychiatrist”

 “SOCIAL SCULPTURE  how we mould and shape the world we live in: Sculpture as an evolutionary  process; everyone is an artist.”


I honour flux highly and my own (reflective) practise is influence by the instability of my surrounding. I’m very interested in the constant change and one’s own interactions, but personally I would not “go as far” as saying that everyone is an artist. The following quote is in German, but I shall translate and summarize loosely (if you don’t trust me, select a search engine of your preference and let it translate the words, or even better, go over to your book shelf and get the old and dusty dictionary out – will do you good):

„Jeder Mensch ist ein Träger von Fähigkeiten, ein sich selbst bestimmendes Wesen, der Souverän schlechthin in unserer Zeit. Er ist ein Künstler, ob er nun bei der Müllabfuhr ist, Krankenpfleger, Arzt, Ingenieur oder Landwirt. Da, wo er seine Fähigkeiten entfaltet, ist er Künstler. Ich sage nicht, daß dies bei der Malerei eher zur Kunst führt als beim Maschinenbau …”[ii]

Everyone is an artist. Duh! One could have guessed, but here Beuys weaves peoples professions into the mix. According to him, it doesn’t matter whether one collects bins for a living or works as a farmer , as long as one engages to one’s fullest potential in such activities.
[Hmmm….]  I am only at the very beginning of my journey through the “wonderful world of Oz”[iii] even though I have been drawing ever since I could hold a wax crayon, or a piece of red brick -creates beautiful red lines on a tarmacked or concreted ground, give it a try sometime, it is fun!  Moving on: I cannot agree with “everyone is an artist”. Without sounding like a snob or similar, I try not to, believe me, I don’t think picking up a paintbrush and oils and replicating the poppy field across the road, or attending a life drawing class makes one an artist. Some people have a fantastic talent, be it in creating two dimensional masterpieces or chiselling an updated version of Rodin’s “The Kiss” out of the most beautiful marble, but not everyone with talent is an artist. I studied art, design and culture now for several years, but I’m still taking baby steps. I will be graduating top of my class with a degree in Three Dimensional Design this year; does this make ma a designer?
If one visited my degree exhibition last month, one would have come across the following few words:

Design is not a movement;

Design is an outlook on life.


Design was not made, but came into being,

one cannot become a Designer,

one can only be one.


(After Van Doesburg, 1923)

What do you think: can anyone be an artist??

If you would like to find out what I think, drop me a line and employ me – I am currently looking ofr a position in the design environment – I’m sure we would have a blast!

[i] Harlan, V. (2007) What is Art? Joseph Beuys Forest Row: Clairview, page 9

[ii] Spiegel Online [WWW] http://wissen.spiegel.de/wissen/image/show.html?did=13508033&aref=image036/2006/06/13/cq-sp198402301780186.pdf&thumb=lse  [Accessed 08 July 2010]

[iii] Substitute for the world of art ,design and culture – everyone needs to listen to the voice behind the curtain from time to time, bearing in mind however the possible fraud factor


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