Although Phunst is about changing society, the focus still needs to be on individual attitudes. An artist has a highly privileged position in society. The freedom granted to art, and obviously to artists as well, is not to be taken for granted. When successful, an artist has access to many opportunities not open to normal members of society. It is therefore only right and fitting to expect artists to use their privileged position responsibly.
Art has always known movements that have sought to shake up existing structures and conditions. These include Expressionism, Dada, Viennese Actionism, the Flux movement and street art. But the most significant influence for the theory behind Phunst came from Joseph Beuys. His premise that “everyone is an artist” and his ‘extended definition of art’ are values shared by Phunst. Many of the ideas summarised in Beuys’ notion of the social sculpture are equally relevant for Phunst.
Even though some of his apparently esoteric notions seem questionable to us today, at the heart of Beuys’ theory are ideas still highly relevant: his ideal – rooted in humanism – of equality; and his appeal to each individual’s social responsibility as a driver of social change.
The movement known as Dada is also an important influence for Phunst. Besides the anti-war and ‘anti-art’ attitudes typical of Dada, it is in particular the role played humour that Phunst has in common with this movement. Phunst does not elevate irony to the level of an artistic principle – Phunst is in the fullest sense free of any such principle. Phunst nonetheless views irony and even more so self-irony as humankind’s most important tool for self-correction.
“In my day artists wanted to be outcasts, pariahs. Now they are all integrated into society.”
– Marcel Duchamp