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Ask Jon Sasaki
What Is That?

The correct answer is:
D. Artist Joseph Beuys singing in a rare German TV appearance.

Thanks to Photoshop, it is easier than ever to graft a celebrity noggin onto someone else's body. Thus, you would be forgiven for thinking that this video of German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys backing up a herd of session musicians is not for real. Be assured this is the genuine article. Here is none other than Joe Beuys rocking with all the skill and charisma of the little tambourine girl on the Partridge Family. Hallmarks of their style: wooden posture, off-tempo delivery, expression slightly dazed.

This two-minute clip depicts a rare 1982 German TV appearance of the Fluxus icon performing his nuclear de-armament anthem Sonne Statt Reagan. ³Reagan² is of course a reference to Ronald, but also a play on the German word "Regen," meaning rain. Beuys is demanding Sun Instead of Rain/Reagan. The clunky translation likely deprives Sonne of some cleverness, a fate that surely befell many other Cold War ditties, not excluding 99 Red Balloons. (One can only hope that tune made more sense in its native language. "Worry, worry, super-scurry." What is that?)

Sonne Statt Reagan was written in response to the American sabre-rattling against the Soviet "Evil Empire" and the plan to station an arsenal of U.S. Pershing II missiles on West German soil. Beuysı lyrics call for an abolition of nuclear arms and for the ³rockets to rust.² Noble sentiments indeed. Unfortunately this food for thought is about as tasty as a nine-volt battery to the tongue. One doesnıt know whether to laugh or cry as Joe dances the junior high two-step and twirls the mic overhead. Perhaps everyone is an artist. Rock star is another story, though.

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