Speech by Hanna Wolf of the debate on Hans Haacke’s work „Der Bevölkerung“.

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    Hanna Wolf

    Hanna Wolf (SPD) was a member of the Bundestag from 1990 to 2002.

Hanna Wolf (SPD):
Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen. Today we are voting on Hans Haacke’s art project because rather than placing an order with some garden center he is calling on the 669 current and all the future representatives to bring fifty kilograms of earth from their districts. Doing so will make me a coauthor of the project. Because I take the artist seriously, I want to explain why I don’t want to participate.
The letters we all received, treating us like children, and the denigrating articles in certain culture pages about the competence of politicians . . .
(Applause from Antje Vollmer)

. . . also prompt me to publicly contradict them.
(Applause from the CSU/CSU and portions of the FDP)

The Arts Committee is not compromised by the House taking a vote on this proposal today. That said, I rather wish the Arts Committee had left the decision open . . .
(Applause from Vollmer)

. . . because every representative is supposed to participate in the project.
(Applause from portions of the SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

As enthusiastic as I was from the very beginning about the wrapping of the Reichstag by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, I can’t bring myself to be a part of Haacke’s installation. Before I lay out some of my reasons, let me first distance myself emphatically from the cynical, antiforeigner statements I’ve had the misfortune of reading by some of those who have rejected the Haacke project.
(Applause from portions of the SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, and PDS)
(Gert Weisskirchen: Mr. Glos!)

With the views of a Mr. Glos, for example, I have nothing in common.
(Monika Griefahn (SPD): He said let the Indians do it!)

As to my reasons. First, the inscription on the pediment of the Reichstag building, “To the German people,” was originally, as Haacke himself writes, “a challenge to the Kaiser, who therefore blocked its execution for many years. The Kaiser probably detected a whiff of the French Revolution.” That the Nazis misused this term belongs to the tragedy of our history. But in 1989 the people in Leipzig shouted “we are the people!” It was a provocation to the authorities in the GDR, and nobody thought it was chauvinistic.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU, FDP, and portions of Alliance 90/Greens and PDS)

I don’t want to see this revolutionary tradition of the term the people get buried.
(Applause from portions of the SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, and FDP)
Second, in 1999 the German Bundestag moved from Bonn to Berlin. In my work as a member of the Bundestag I follow the Constitution. In Article 1 of the Constitution it says, “The dignity of human beings is inviolable. It is the duty of all the powers of the state to respect and preserve that dignity.” In Article 3 of the Constitution it says that “All human beings are equal before the law.” It always speaks of human beings with- out qualification; that is, of everyone who lives in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Constitution is mandate enough for me. I don’t need any additional reminder.
(Applause from portions of the SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

Third, Hans Haacke – and for me this is the most serious reason – has repeatedly concerned himself with the Nazi dictatorship. And so I am all the more disturbed that he makes the earth-cult symbolism of the Nazis the basis of his installation.
(Applause from portions of the SPD and FDP)

After all, the Nazis carted earth from each of the Gauen, as they were called at the time, to the Olympic games in Berlin.13 I can and will not participate in another earth cult. I consider it embarrassing, and it smacks of mystification.
(Applause from portions of Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, and FDP)

Hans Haacke understands himself as a political artist, and I will give him an equally political answer: the debate over the inscriptions “people” or “population” has, in my opinion, already achieved its goal. I consider the earth symbolism politically wrong. If many of the representatives of the Bundestag, for various reasons, refuse to participate, I think that Haacke should withdraw his proposal.
(Applause from portions of the CDU/CSU)

I also wish he had found a new metaphor, like Christo, instead of working with an old symbolism.
(Applause from portions of the SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, CDU/CSU, FDP, and PDS)