For anyone who is unfamiliar with Hans Haacke’s work this paperback will offer illuminating insights into the conceptual artist’s life and art. A wide range of photographs, provide a good overview of the numerous aspects of Haacke’s œvre, ranging from photography, painting and installations to his writings on art and politics.
At the beginning of the book, a detailed interview with Haacke introduces the reader to his theoretical thinking and political views, especially in relation to his collaboration with the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. This is followed by a section on Haacke’s photographs taken during the Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in 1959. These photos, which are on display in our current exhibition Not All Documents Are Records, can be seen as reflections on our public engagement with art. Moreover, they present exhibition photography as an art form in its own right.
The third chapter focuses on an exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery called Mixed Messages, in 2001, in which Haacke’s works which are part of the V&A collection were on display. The exhibition, again, shows the artist’ engagement with questions concerning documentary photography and the issues that may arise when it is mistakenly taken at face value. The forth chapter titled ‘Artist’s Choice’ consists of abstracts of Bertold Brecht’s text ‘Writing the Truth’. Brecht is mainly concerned about an author’s duty to seek the truth, to have the courage to present it and to be cunning enough to spread it among likeminded people. This is particularly relevant with regard to Brecht’s opposition to the oppression and censorship practiced by the Fascist regime in Germany but it also links up with Haacke’s own work since the artist had to deal with censorship in the course of his career. In general, Haacke’s political views strongly influence all aspects of his work. This becomes again clear in the fourth section of the book. Under the title ‘Artist’s Writings’ the editors have compiled a revealing selection of Haacke’s own texts in which the artist reflects on artworks as systems, artworks as part of an institutional system and artworks as commercial commodities.
The book ends with a chronicle overview over Hans Haacke’s exhibitions and publications and an extensive bibliography. As part of the Contemporary Artists series by Phaidon Publishing Hans Haacke benefits from well-written contributions by renowned art critics and art historians like Molly Nesbit, Walter Grasskamp, Jon Bird and texts written by the artist himself.
Written by Joanna Straczowski