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Title:A politics of action: Hans Haacke in Germany, 1972-2006
Author(s):Ewing, Margaret Ann
Director of Research:Hudson, Suzanne
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hudson, Suzanne
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Weissman, Terri; Fritzsche, Peter A.; Kaplan, Brett A.
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Hans Haacke
Germany
memory
institutional critique
public art
participatory citizenship
Hannah Arendt
Abstract:Examining the works of Hans Haacke (b. 1936, Cologne) made in and about Germany between 1972-2006, this dissertation argues that the investigation of that country’s political structures comprises the very core of Haacke’s motivating concerns. Haacke’s long-term interrogation of German politics, now extending over more than three decades and including museum, gallery, and public art projects, reveals a new and crucial way of understanding his overarching enterprise, one which developed in direct response to the history of Nazi Germany and its aftermath in the following decades. His determination to figure out how things work stemmed, I argue, from his drive to understand how the Nazi history came to be, and to work against a repetition of such events in the future. In early work this focused on physical and biological systems before moving into the political sphere, examining how powerful people and institutions operate and act in the world according to their interests. The generous attention to the aftermath of Haacke’s most provocative works in both Germany and the United States, while certainly central to his oeuvre, has obscured crucial attention to the initiation of his work. I consider Haacke’s work in light of Hannah Arendt’s proposition of action, which focuses on the outset of a project and its inherent potential to initiate a process in a new direction. My chapters correspond to the central themes in Haacke’s German works—memory, the public sphere, and participatory citizenship—and are organized in terms of the “what,” “where,” and “how” of these projects. His individual works comprise a larger inquiry into the failures of Germany’s work of coming to terms with the past and are a type of memory work, but one attuned to historical recovery rather than trauma or mourning. In so doing, they engage questions of the “public,” both in physical terms of public space as well as in an engagement of public audiences, and generate a version of Arendt’s “space of appearance,” in which participants come together to examine and debate contentious histories and their current implications. Ultimately, I argue, Haacke’s works take on the fraught and sweeping question of citizenship in Germany—of who is included or excluded from the German people either by prejudice or law—and carry an implicit call for participation that challenges the interests of large-scale institutions. Accounting for multiple moments of first West Germany’s and then reunified Germany’s efforts to define themselves, I contextualize Haacke’s German works within the larger question that underlies this dissertation, and in which they are necessarily situated, namely, Germany’s postwar reckoning with its history.
Issue Date:2015-04-21
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78751
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Margaret Ann Ewing
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015


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