Hans Haacke’s Bevölkerung

Posted on November 9, 2011


A discussion organised on the occasion of Hans Haacke’s 75th birthday – my apologies for the picture, Haacke was really there (2nd from the right). The discussion was about his work for Reichstag, which made it interesting for my research. For this work he made a text in neon signs, placed in a court yard in the middle of a stretch of soil. The typeface and the text refer to the text ‘Dem Deutschen Volke’ on the front of the Reichstag building, the earth around the text is what makes this work both participatory and ‘organic’: Abgeordneten working in Reichstag bring soil from their Bund when they come into office, so the soil is a mix of soils from all over Germany, and whatever seeds are in this soil are left to grow undisturbed. See project website for how it looks now, they have a webcam pointed on the court yard.

The text of the work is of course the part that caused great upheavel at the time it was realised. Haacke ‘corrected’ the text on the front into ‘Der Bevölkerung’, which leaves out the German part as well as the contaminated ‘Volk’. Interesting I thought, and quite beautiful, was that he said that he had taken a cue from Berthold Brecht, who said that in writing, by replacing the word Volk  by Bevölkerung one comes closer to the truth (or at least tells less lies). Another great thing to see during the presentation was the countless pictures of Abgeordneten with shovels, digging earth in their home towns, as featured in their local newspapers.

The evening closed with the presentation of a book, with contributions by 100 artists who take inspiration from Haacke – one of them being a certain member of the ABA team…

… this of course being the whole reason we were in this event in the first place, thank you Susanne!