The German conceptual artist Hans Haacke developed an activist and critical artistic stance that has an ongoing relationship with its specific political, social and cultural environment and challenges the viewer to engage in dialogue. In the 1960s, the artist moved to New York, where he worked up specific forms for process-based art concepts and production that took an experimental and scientific approach. His aim was to make physical, biological or social processes and dependency relationships accessible in model arrangements and to illustrate the structures they were based on. This is the period that encompasses the works being shown in this exhibition: Condensation Cube (1963–1965)and Wide White Flow (1967/2021), an installation consisting of a 4 × 7-metre piece of sheer white silk fabric attached to the floor at the corners of the room on one side and to the wall on the other. The fabric fills nearly the entire room compartment with its wave-like form, while four fans cause it to move up and down in gentle undulations. As with Condensation Cube, the subject is natural fluid systems which, like miniature cosmoses, lead lives of their own, and are subject to dependencies and processes of change. He had already created a series consisting of “droplet” boxes, which in this case the viewer had to fill with water in various sections. The Plexiglas cube, which is hermetically sealed, with small openings in the upper part through which water is introduced at the beginning, was filled with about 1 centimetre of distilled water at the bottom. Condensation spreads within the cube and runs down the sides in vertical streaks. This process is dependent on factors such as temperature, light, ventilation and the number of visitors present in the room, who contribute to the room climate. The artist thus actively involves those present in a physical and cultural phenomenon.
Haacke has always focused his work on systems – as a provocateur and a critic of institutions and the economic and political system. Such has been the case over the past two decades with works such as Weil sie nicht deutsch aussahen (Because They Didn’t Look German, 2006) – an installation on the facade of the Akademie der Künste on Pariser Platz in memory of those murdered out of racist motives – or Der Bevölkerung (To the Populace, 1999), which was created for the atrium of the Reichstag building and was the subject of heated discussion both inside and outside the parliament. The latter was conceived as a play on the inscription “Dem deutschen Volke” (To the German People), a formulation which excludes foreigners living in Germany. The poster project Wir (alle) sind das Volk (We Are [All] the People), which has been presented in cities around the world since 2003, is a statement in twelve languages that refers to the peaceful revolution of 1989.
Anke Hervol and Wulf Herzogenrath
In the exhibition:
Hans Haacke Condensation Cube, 1963–65 Plexiglass and water 46 × 46 × 46 cm Private collection
Hans Haacke Wide White Flow, 1967–2021 Electric fans, white silk fabric 400 × 700 cm Courtesy of the artist
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