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Hans Haacke: Exposing systems of power

The artist talks about two key works, Condensation Cube 1963–5 and A Breed Apart 1978

Since the mid-1960s, the German artist, Hans Haacke has produced controversial work, often exposing systems of power and influence. In this film, he talks about two key works, Condensation Cube 1963-5 and A Breed Apart 1978.

'I believe it is necessary for the public... the voters... to become aware of these interdependencies, and come up with, hopefully , an alternative to it.' explains Hans Haacke.

In this rare interview, he explores the relationship between the object and the viewer, as well as discussing in depth how he came to make the political work targeting the former car manufacturer British Leyland, A Breed Apart, for a solo show in Oxford.

transcription

I do not work systematically. All sorts of things go through my head and pieces fall into place. And then I have to focus on these pieces and refine them and make something coherent out of it. But the ideas are born in an uncontrolled manner.

I became interested in things that actually perform independent of the viewer. And in the case of the Condensation Cube it was important for me that it was not the object, namely a cube made out of acrylic plastic, but the actual physical exchange between the environment, including the viewer, and what is enclosed in the cube.

I was invited to have a solo exhibition at the museum in Oxford. In spite of a growing boycott of the racist regime in South Africa, British Leyland was also making military vehicles which were still supplied through the South African military forces. British Leyland also had a major factory near Oxford and one of the slogans called it a breed apart. And, I drew from some of the advertisement, for the breed apart, and juxtaposed them alternately with black and white photographs of the Land Rover in action, against the back indigenous population of South Africa.

Well, I believe it is necessary for the public, for the voters to become aware of these interdependencies and come up with, hopefully, an alternative to it. I would like the visitors to have, more or less, all the information they need in order to make sense of what they are exposed to.

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