The Writings of Hans Haacke
344 pp., 7 x 9 in, 47 color illus., 18 b&w illus.
- Published: October 21, 2016
- Publisher: The MIT Press
Texts by Hans Haacke that range from straightforward descriptions of his artworks to wide-ranging reflections on the relationship between art and politics.
Hans Haacke's art articulates the interdependence of multiple elements. An artwork is not merely an object but is also its context—the economic, social, and political conditions of the art world and the world at large. Among his best-known works are MoMA-Poll (1970), which polled museumgoers on their opinions about Nelson Rockefeller and the Nixon administration's Indochina policy; Gallery-Goers' Birthplace and Residence Profile (1969), which canvassed visitors to the Howard Wise Gallery in Manhattan; and the famously canceled 1971 solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, which was meant to display, among other things, works on two New York real estate empires.
This volume collects writings by Haacke that explain and document his practice. The texts, some of which have never before been published, run from straightforward descriptions to wide-ranging reflections and full-throated polemics. They include correspondence with MoMA and the Guggenheim and a letter refusing to represent the United States at the 1969 São Paulo Biennial; the title piece, “Working Conditions,” which discusses corporate influence on the art world; Haacke's thinking about “real-time social systems”; and texts written for museum catalogs on various artworks, including GERMANIA, in the German Pavilion of the 1993 Venice Biennial; DER BEVÖLKERUNG (To the Population) of 2000 at the Berlin Reichstag; Mixed Messages, an exhibition of objects from the Victoria and Albert Museum (2001); and Gift Horse, unveiled on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2015.
Hans Haacke's singular distinction is of the hard won, genuine kind, an eminent isolation shared in the twentieth century perhaps only by John Heartfield and Piero Manzoni (two figures of greatest importance for his own formation). Since the late 1960s, he diagnosed contexts of culture that nobody had seen (e.g., the necessary politics of ecology), and was the single voice in analyzing the economies of corporate culture nobody wanted to see. Equally blocked from American institutional recognition as he was isolated from art historical contexts (neither accepted as Minimalist nor as Conceptual artist), Haacke is now all the more distinguished by the impact his works and his writings have had on two generations of artists who have followed his models of critical analysis and cultural contestation, ranging from Martha Rosler to Allan Sekula, from Louise Lawler to Mark Lombardi, from Walid Raad to Hito Steyerl.
Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Art, Harvard University; author of Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry and Formalism and Historicity
Haacke is undoubtedly an essential figure in the art of the last half century. For him, artistic practice, politics, and the institution are inextricably linked, and cannot be understood in isolation from each other. He has been among the artists who have reflected most penetratingly on the artist's conditions of production. This book, an exhaustive compilation of his writings, provides a unique insight into his work, and so illuminates our era.
Manuel Borja-Villel, Director, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
With this book, we now have a full collection of Haacke's crucial statements, allowing the span of his career from systems art to institutional critique to be fully assessed. As pithy as they are indispensable, Haacke's writings capture the fierce ethics that he has always brought to his practice—now summarized in a useful introduction by Alex Alberro.
Caroline A. Jones, Professor and Director, History Theory Criticism Section, MIT Architecture Department; curator and author of Hans Haacke 1967
This comprehensive collection of Haacke's trenchant writings demonstrates the full breadth of his concerns–from postformalism to urbanism, ecology to labor relations–as well as the full range of theoretical positions he has drawn on to articulate them, from systems theory to sociology. It also features a number of important, previously unpublished texts, including an early critique of kinetic art and a recent one of speculative property development. An indispensable resource as well as a testament to Haacke's long, politically committed career.
Luke Skrebowski, Lecturer in Contemporary Art, Department of History of Art, University of Manchester
I have often asked myself, What would Hans Haacke do? For over half a century, Haacke has served as the artistic, ethical, and political compass of the art field. This long-overdue collection of his writings will serve as an indispensible guide for artists, curators, critics and historians for generations to come.
Andrea Fraser, performance artist; Professor of New Genres in the Department of Art, University of California, Los Angeles; author of Museum Highlights
The New York Times