Speech by Dr. Antje Vollmer of the debate on Hans Haacke’s work „Der Bevölkerung“.

  • null

    Dr. Antje Vollmer

    Antje Vollmer (Bündnis 90/ Grüne) was a member of the German Bundestag from 1994 to 2005 and its Vice President (deputy speaker) at the time of the debate. She was a member of the Kunstbeirat (Arts Committee) when it deliberated the proposal of DER BEVÖLKERUNG.

Redner 3 | Dr. Antje Vollmer

Dr. Antje Vollmer (Alliance 90/Greens):
Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen. We are not speaking along party lines here, but freely, pro and con. I support this motion, and thus I am against the installation of this artwork.
(Applause from portions of the FDP)

As the debate over the Haacke project has dragged on, I have increasingly had the feeling that ever bigger guns are being put into position and ever higher fences of taboos are being built. I plead for disarmament in this matter, for less emotionalism and, if possible, a return to sober, practical reason.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, SPD, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

First, I want to congratulate Hans Haacke, who is seated in the visitors’ gallery. One could have a terrific argument about whether he has succeeded in creating a work of art [Kunstwerk]. That is a decision for others to make. At any rate he has produced a piece of artistry [Kunststück]: he is the first to have the honor of having produced a debate about his artwork on the floor of the German Bundestag.
(Shout from the CDU/CSU: “Christo!”)

He wanted to spark a debate on the two terms, people and population. I don’t think we owe him anything beyond that. For a process artist that alone is quite an accomplishment, and I respect that.
What we need to discuss today is an entirely practical problem: How can an artwork be realized, which requires the participation of the Bundestag’s freely elected representatives in what, in my opinion, is a very strange and even comical soil ritual?
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, SPD, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

I am one of those people who just can’t imagine that, for example, Representatives Jörg van Essen, Angela Merkel, Rezzo Schlauch, Elke Leonhard, or Gregor Gysi will show up here one day with a bucket or a sack of dirt . . .
(Laughter from portions of the CDU/CSU and FDP)

. . . and wait for it to be emptied into the northern courtyard, in order to purge themselves, as it were, of nationalistic ideas and convictions.
(Amusement and applause from Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, FDP, and portions of the SPD)

Vice President Bläss:
Representative Dr. Vollmer, will you allow a question?

Because I’m only allowed five minutes, I’d rather keep my comments continuous. Afterward I’d be happy to field a question.
One could find dramatic words for this process, which is indirectly imposed on the Representatives. But one could also say: This is simply ludicrous. There are good and simple reasons for not wanting to participate. And this is precisely the point. What will the artist Hans Haacke do if he can’t get enough Representatives to see the sense of his project? I believe that this is a weakness, a failure of his artistic concept. And because the artwork suffers from this particular artistic weakness, I believe that this is the reason behind all the moralizing and recriminations.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and FDP)

I want to make perfectly clear: I don’t think we should submit to this kind of examination of our beliefs.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU and FDP; laughter from portions of the SPD)

If you are against this artwork, you are not signaling that you are “right wing.” If you are for the artwork and thus for the use of this peculiarly mythical substance called earth, you are not necessarily signaling that you are a patron of the arts.
(Applause from portions of the CDU/CSU and FDP)

It will be said that the freedom of art is at stake. True enough, I say, but it is also about the freedom of the Representatives and their decision whether or not to be part of this artwork. I only wish that the Arts Committee, of which I have been a member since this legislative session, had shown more wisdom and discernment in this matter.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

Was it really such a good idea to leave the German parliamentarians no choice, a choice that our French colleagues, for example, enjoyed. For Mr. Haacke was also a candidate for a project in France. He was awarded an honor, but not chosen. That was an elegant solution.
(Amusement and applause from Alliance 90/Greens, the CDU/CSU, and the FDP)

I believe that the German parliament really does not deserve the reproaches by certain popes and cardinals of the arts. I ask, “For God’s sake, give us the freedom of our convictions, and the freedom to make decisions!”
(Laughter from portions of the SPD)

Incidentally, artists are people too. You are allowed to take issue with artists. You can disagree with them. You don’t have to put them on a pedestal. If you did, you would be doing an injustice to artists and their art. A debate with artists gave us, for example, the dome on this Reichstag building. Mr. Foster didn’t want it; it came out of the debate.
(Shouts from the CDU/CSU: “Exactly! Very true!”)

So please allow the parliament and the artists this form of critical debate!
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, the SPD, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

When we talk about the freedom of art, given what we’ve bought to date—which are essentially the same works that you can find in every museum of modern art—we also have to talk about certain forces in the art market, about exclusive clubs and groups that mutually advise and promote each other. What disturbs me most is that, despite the forty million deutsch marks that we’re spending on contemporary art—an incredible message—we have hardly any unknown artists. Which is to say that the artists of the last decade don’t have a chance, and the artists of the next decade won’t either, because the money is spent. That’s something worth having a debate over. Today’s debate has everything to do with the freedom of art but also with the freedom of the Representatives to have their say. Thank you.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, the CDU/CSU, SPD, and FDP)