In 1976 Joseph Beuys makes a spectacular installation for the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale. For this he uses casts of the remains of a monument from 1653, ‘Der Eiserne Mann’, which stood beside a tram-stop in his hometown of Cleves: an upright cannon barrel, on top of which a cupid stood as a symbol of love, which defeats war, and several empty, overturned ammunition boxes.
Furthermore, he drills a 25 metre-deep hole in the floor of the pavilion to make a connection with the history of Venice. The material excavated from the hole consisted of rubble from the campanile of the San Marco that collapsed in 1902; bones and shards. This is also exhibited.
After the Biennale, Beuys regards the installation as finished. From that moment on, the work must never again be exhibited upright; the components must be displayed ‘abgelegt’ (laid down). Even in this ‘dismantled’ form, this ‘antiheroic monument for post-war Germany’ remains rich in meanings and associations.