Speech by Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig of the debate on Hans Haacke’s work „Der Bevölkerung“.

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    Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig

    Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig (Bündnis 90/Grüne) was a member of the Bundestag from 1994 to 2005. She was a member of the Kunstbeirat (Arts Committee) when it deliberated the proposal of DER BEVÖLKERUNG.

Redner 9 | Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig

Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig (Alliance 90/Greens):
Madam President. Dear colleagues. I will now attempt to contribute to the disarmament that Antje Vollmer called for but that I don’t think she, in fact, managed herself.
(Applause from the SPD and PDS)

I would also like to contribute to the critical analysis that Norbert Lammert called for. I don’t think that those who have expressed support for the project – and thus not for the motion you have made – are doing so out of humble admiration but rather in a thoughtful and wellconsidered way.
To come back to our prehistory: when, during the previous legislative session, the Arts Committee decided – I believe unanimously; Mr. Kauder was present – we discussed at length commissioning Hans Haacke to present us with a proposal, we all knew what we were doing, across party lines. We knew we had engaged an artist who provokes politicians and challenges them to enter into a dialogue with art, an artist who wants to bring about an intricate and mutual relationship between art and politics. If we decide today that this project shouldn’t be realized, then we also decide that the hand we extended is now being withdrawn. I think this is a dimension we should seriously consider as well.
In my opinion, what is special about the project under discussion is that it is a thought-work and not just an artwork.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, SPD, and PDS)

We are used to artworks that appeal primarily to our emotions, our subconscious capacity for associations. In contrast to this, Haacke challenges us to be enlightened and to think. He really forces us to reflect on our actions. In my opinion he poses two questions specifically to us parliamentarians and thus has a very (and I don’t have a problem with this, Representative Lammert) enlightening effect. He asks us, for whom are you writing laws? Exclusively for German citizens, or for all human beings who live on German soil?
The second question he asks us, which has already been a matter of discussion, is: Can you really talk about “soil,” which carries and nourishes us all, in a natural way without getting all worked up? Or is it forever associated with the blood-and-soil mythology of the National Socialists? I have to say that I don’t agree with all the answers that Haacke has offered with his project description.
For one thing – I want to be clear about this, particularly to the supporters of the motion – I am not of the opinion that the inscription “to the German people” has been so disgraced forever by fascism that the term German people cannot be uttered any more. I think that we have developed such a democratically committed political culture that we can stand behind our German identity again.
(Applause from portions of the SPD)

If this is the case (we should all see it that way, regardless of our position about this artwork), then I think we should really use the impetus for thought that Haacke’s project gives us; it is good and important. For the discussion over the past weeks has shown how many people still have problems with their identity. And that is why we still have to talk about terms like German people and German population.
(Applause from Alliance 90/Greens, SPD, PDS, and Ulrich Heinrich) The second question that Haacke asks us can be answered in various ways. I also have some issues with the earth ritual. I won’t be dragging a sack of dirt to the Reichstag. But I’ve also spoken with many of my younger colleagues, who ask me what my problem is with earth from the homeland. They are entirely prepared to bring homeland earth – not just earth from their election district, Mr. Haacke. They, especially our own Greens, say, we want to plant it with hemp and sunflower seeds, then something optimistic and cheerful will grow there.
(Amusement and applause from Alliance 90/Greens and SPD)

It is entirely legitimate to see this invitation for thought, regarding the use of earth, as either mythically problematic and burdened by National Socialism, or as cheerful and optimistic. Because we don’t need to have the same answers in both our hearts and in our heads, if we support this project. But I do hope that we have the courage to open ourselves to the questions that Haacke throws our way and the thinking that he demands of us – not just with respect to the here and now of this discussion but also in view of the coming generations of parliamentarians and visitors who will read this inscription and in turn be prompted to think.
I recommend that we reject the motion.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, SPD, and PDS)

Vice President Bläss:
The next speaker in the debate is the Honorable Volker Kauder of the CDU/CSU. Dear colleagues, because the room is now very full and the noise level is also very high, I’d like to ask you specifically to direct your full attention to these last two speakers.