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

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    Ulrich Heinrich

    Ulrich Heinrich (FDP) was a member of the Bundestag from 1987 to 2005. At the time of the debate, he was parliamentary director of the FDP faction of the Bundestag and chairman of its Baden-Württemberg parliamentary group. He died on 16 October 2007. He was a member of the Kunstbeirat (Arts Committee) when it deliberated the proposal of DER BEVÖLKERUNG

Redner 4 | Ulrich Heinrich

Ulrich Heinrich (FDP):
Madam President. Dear colleagues. I think we can all agree Professor Hans Haacke has really bitten off a lot. Whoever raises questions about the term people [Volk] in the German parliament of all places can’t really be surprised by the critical tone. But to come right to my point, I consider the critical positions and discussions an absolutely positive thing. It speaks well of our democratic culture and of art in general, but also specifically for art in the German Bundestag.
(Applause from portions of the FDP, SPD, and Alliance 90/Greens)

Nevertheless, one thing is obvious: the criticism is harshest where there is the least engagement with and understanding of the artwork.
(Applause from portions of the SPD and Alliance 90/Greens)

That is why it was such a wise decision to form an Arts Committee. The Arts Committee is made up of ordinary representatives such as myself. They are supported by a whole range of art experts who also sit on the committee. The committee had two sessions in which the artwork that it commissioned was discussed at length, and each time a large majority expressed support for it.
My dear Dr. Lammert, earlier you quoted from the artist’s description. The Arts Committee made it clear that it did not adopt the document as we see it here today.
(Applause from the SPD)
(Hans-Peter Repnik (CDU/CSU): But that’s the whole point of the report!)

I assume we have the liberty not to adhere slavishly to how the artist has interpreted his project but rather to offer our own interpretation in a form that doesn’t look ridiculous.
(Applause from the SPD and portions of Alliance 90/Greens)

The inscription “To the German People” on the west pediment of the Reichstag led Haacke to show how terribly the term the German People has been misused, historically, in stark contrast to the democratic sensibility of earlier times, thus making it into a positive message, as it was originally intended.
When we make a comparison with France and Great Britain, my esteemed ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, let me point out that German history has seen a massive misuse of the word people [Volk] and that it is precisely this misuse of the word people that spurred the artist to draw a link, full of tension, between people and population.
(Applause from portions of the FDP, SPD, and Alliance 90/Greens)

To make this link is really a very instructive undertaking. It recalls the ethnic [völkisch] cleansing undertaken by the National Socialists. One hundred-thirteen members of the Reichstag were stripped of their German citizenship. Seventy-five of these died in prison, and eight committed suicide. But it also recalls the misuse of the term the people [Volk] during the Communist regime in divided Germany. The demonstrators of 1989 shouting “We are the people” protested explicitly against the misuse of the people in the former GDR.
(Applause from the SPD and portions of Alliance 90/Greens)

The reference earlier to Article 3 of the Constitution – “No one shall be discriminated against or privileged on the basis of his or her gender, heritage, race, language, place of birth or origin, or his or her religious or political views” – is likewise particularly important here. It wasn’t for nothing that this principle was written into the Constitution in 1949.
Whoever takes the people today and changes it into the population is hardly doing away with the German people, but rather expanding the term to correspond to our current understanding of democracy, and makes clear just whom this parliament is working for.
(Applause from portions of the FDP, SPD, and Alliance 90/Greens)

In Germany right now about ten percent of those living here are foreigners, a percentage that will grow in the future. Residency and labor mobility in the EU and the planned expansion to include Eastern countries will continue this trend, whether we want it or not. As a parliament we will have to account increasingly for this development.
The connection that is being drawn between the historical Reichstag building and the Bundestag, in my opinion, is a very good reflection of that drawn between the people and the population.
(Applause from portions of the SPD and Alliance 90/Greens)

Particularly impressive, but also very challenging for us representatives, is without a doubt the transportation of earth from our various districts. This interaction and participation clearly shows that we are dealing with an artwork that cannot be sited just anywhere, but rather is created exclusively for the German Bundestag.
I also find the gesture that the earth is to be brought here from the election districts – particular interests, so to speak – in order to join with that from other regions in one unified whole is symbolically very compelling.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve all participated in ground-breaking ceremonies. I ask you then, who hasn’t contributed to that sort of symbolic act? This is exactly the same.
(Applause from the SPD and portions of Alliance 90/Greens)

Here, the emphasis is on the cooperation of all the Representatives. It is precisely not “blood and soil” symbolism.
(Applause from the SPD and portions of Alliance 90/Greens)
(Uwe Küster (SPD): Quite the contrary!)

Vice President Bläss:
Representative Heinrich, your closing comments, please.

Ulrich Heinrich:
Yes, Madame President.
To use Hans Haacke’s words, with the population the blood is taken out of the earth. We are moving increasingly toward jus soli. Think about it carefully, and you will come to the same conclusion.
(Applause from portions of the SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, and PDS; shout from the CDU/CSU: “You’ve already spoken too long!”)

Madame President, my last sentence: although one may question whether art should be voted on by the full Parliament, because art cannot be decided by majority vote and the freedom of art demands a tolerant attitude, I beg you to exercise tolerance, to vote for this project, and therefore to reject this motion. Thank you.
(Applause from portions of the FDP, SPD, Alliance 90/Greens, and PDS)

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