I have always been sympathetic to so-called minimal art. That does not keep me from criticizing its determined aloofness, which, of course, was also one of its greatest strengths. As to the implied incompatibility between a political statement/information and a work of art, I don’t think there are generally accepted criteria for what constitutes a work of art. At least since Duchamp and the constructivists, this has been a moving target…
Contrary to popular belief, eagles are really not courageous birds; they are even afraid of bicycles, as [Marcel] Broodthaers wrote. Their power is due to projection. The same is true for art—and political power. They need the red carpet, the gold frame, the aura of the office/museum—the paraphernalia of a seeming immortality and divine origin… It is important that the Thatcher painting is an oil painting. Acrylic paint doesn’t have an aura… Another reason for making a painting was that I had been stamped a conceptualist, a photomontagist, that sort of thing. This was a way to mess up the labels…
It is true that I often play on the modes of the contemporary art world, and I try to make something that is accessible to a larger public, which does not care for the histrionics of the art world. As Douglas [Crimp] pointed out, it helps that these pieces do not have the look of hermetic “avant-garde” art…
Where the Left is sometimes unnecessarily vulnerable is in its tendency to make mechanical attributions of ideology. In that respect, it mirrors the Right. We should recognize that things need to be evaluated within their respective historical contexts. Taken out of context, they are likely to be misread and can play the opposite role from that of their original settings… If I had been too concerned about co-optation, I would probably not have been able to do the things I’ve done. It can have a paralyzing effect. I saw this with some colleagues and students in the ’60s and ’70s. They either stopped working altogether or went through tremendous personal crisis, from which some eventually emerged as cynical entrepreneurs. In either case, it amounted to a capitulation to the powers that be. It takes stamina and shrewdness to survive in this mess… We just have to reconcile ourselves to the historical contingency of things. Otherwise, we fall into the idealist trap of believing in universal meanings and values. — Hans Haacke*
On the occasion of the New Museum exhibition HANS HAACKE—ALL CONNECTED—the artist’s first major institutional show in the United States since Hans Haacke—Unfinished Business (1986–1987), also at the New Museum—join Haacke and co-curators Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari for a public conversation.
Thursday, October 24, at 7 pm.
New Museum Theater
235 Bowery, New York City
*Yve-Alain Bois, Douglas Crimp, and Rosalind Krauss, “A Conversation with Hans Haacke,” October 30 (Autumn 1984): 22–48; reprinted in October: The First Decade, 1976–1986, edited by Annette Michelson, Krauss, Crimp, and Joan Copjec (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 175–200.
Hans Haacke, from top: Condensation Cube, 1963–65, clear acrylic, distilled water, and climate in area of display; Untitled, acrylic and liquid; Taking Stock (unfinished), 1983–84, oil on canvas and gilded frame; Mobil, On the Right Track, 1980, screen print and collage of photographs; Hans Haacke, Volume I, cover image courtesy and © Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Tate Gallery, London, and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; On Social Grease, 1975, photo-engraved magnesium plates mounted on aluminum plaque (detail); MoMA Poll, 1970, two transparent ballot boxes with automatic counters and color-coded ballots, Information, Museum of Modern Art, New York, installation view; Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971, 1971, 142 black-and-white photographs, 142 typewritten cards, two excerpts from city map, and six charts (detail); Oil Painting: Homage to Marcel Broodthaers, 1982, oil on canvas, gilded frame, bronze plaque, stanchions, red velvet rope, picture lamp, red carpet, and photomural, Documenta 7, Kassel, installation view; child viewing Large Water Level, 1964–65, Miscellaneous Notions of Kinetic Sculpture, Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1967, installation view; Hans Haacke: All Connected, cover image courtesy and © the New Museum and Phaidon. Images courtesy and © the artist, Artists Rights Society, New York, and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.