7000 Oaks is a work of land art by the German artist Joseph Beuys. It was first publicly presented in 1982 at the documenta 7. With the help of volunteers, Beuys planted 7,000 oak trees over several years in Kassel, Germany, each with an accompanying basalt stone.
You can’t get more monumental in the mid to late 20th Century than Joseph Beuys. He was even appointed professor of monumental sculpture at the Arts Academy in Dusselforf in 1965 (he was asked to resign in 1970 as he would allow any students to attend his class). Beuys constructed his own fictional/factional personal history which added a sharmanistic quality to his now considered monumental life.
Some quotes by Beuys
I believe that planting these oaks is necessary not only in biospheric terms, that is to say, in the context of matter and ecology, but in that it will raise ecological consciousness-raise it increasingly, in the course of the years to come, because we shall never stop planting.
Thus, 7000 Oaks is a sculpture referring to peoples’ life, to their everyday work. That is my concept of art which I call the extended concept or art of the social sculpture.
I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time. The oak is especially so because it is a slowly growing tree with a kind of really solid heartwood. It has always been a form of sculpture, a symbol for this planet.
The planting of seven thousand oak trees is thus only a symbolic beginning. And such a symbolic beginning requires a marker, in this instance a basalt column. The intention of such atree-planting event is to point up the transformation of all of life, of society, and of the whole ecological system….
They are basalt columns that one can find in the craters of extinct volcanoes, where they become a prismatic, quasi-crystalline shape through a particular cooling process-which produces these shapes with five, six, seven, and eight corners. They could, and still can, be found lined up like perfect, beautiful organ pipes in the Eifel region. Today, most of them are protected.
But we didn’t have to have these particular splendid organ pipes, we just wanted a material with basalt characteristics from the environs of Kassel. So there we found basalt columns which are part crystalline, that is to say, they have sharp corners, but at the same
time tend toward amorphousness.
My point with these seven thousand trees was that each would be a monument, consisting of a living part, the live tree, changing all the time, and a crystalline mass, maintaining its shape, size, and weight. This stone can be transformed only by taking from it, when a piece splinters off, say, never by growing. By placing these two objects side by side, the proportionality of
the monument’s two parts will never be the same.
So now we have six- and seven-year-old oaks, and the stone dominates them. In a few years’ time, stone and tree will be in balance, and in twenty to thirty years’ time we may see that gradually, the stone has become an adjunct at the foot of the oak or whatever tree it may be.