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

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    Volker Kauder

    Volker Kauder (CDU) has been a member of the Bundestag since 1990. From 1998 to 2002 he was leader of its CDU members from the state of Baden-Württemberg. Since 2005 he has been the head of the CDU/CSU faction of the Bundestag. He was a member of the Kunstbeirat (Arts Committee) when it deliberated on the proposal of DER BEVÖLKERUNG

Redner 10 | Volker Kauder

Volker Kauder (CDU/CSU):
Madam President. My esteemed ladies and gentlemen. We will decide today whether the Haacke artwork “To the Population” should be installed in the Reichstag. We are, however, not deciding on art. Rather, we are holding a political debate. We are not dealing with aesthetic matters and certainly not with the question of artistic freedom. Art is free in Germany, and it is not being censored by this debate.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and portions of Alliance 90/Greens and FDP)

What didn’t we have to read in the days leading up to this! Supposedly the freedom of art would be threatened if we dare say “no” to this artwork today. How can the freedom of art be threatened when we’re only deciding where this work should be installed? Hans Haacke could put it anywhere in Berlin except in the Reichstag.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and portions of the FDP)

Another equally erroneous argument meant to intimidate us here is that we are dealing with the work of a highly distinguished artist, a work considered good by very distinguished German art experts.
Finally, there is Hans Haacke’s project itself. He wants to place an artwork in the Reichstag building with the title “To the Population.” However, when someone of the people such as Michael Glos expresses his opinion about it, he is told by Hans Haacke that a mill supervisor isn’t able to judge his artwork. What an arrogant response to a man of the people who wants to discuss this artwork!
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and portions of the FDP)

Ladies and gentlemen, we can all read the explanation by Hans Haacke and form our own opinion on his artwork. I say “no” to the installation of this work in the German Bundestag. The many letters from Germans who also reject this artwork have reinforced my opinion.
(Shouts from the SPD: “Whoa!”)

I refuse to ascribe a National Socialistic viewpoint to all these letters, as has been done here. It is unbelievable that anyone would do that.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and portions of the FDP)
(Ulrich Heinrich (FDP): But eighty percent!)

Eighty percent, someone just said. Very many people did write to me that they reject this artwork and that they felt insulted by it.
Hans Haacke’s only goal is provocation. That is his “artwork.” Nothing terribly original! Long ago we had “Insulting the Audience.”
(Shout from the SPD: “This is not an insult!”)

Right now Jewish people in New York have to suffer Haacke’s similarly concocted artwork Sanitation. They have written that they feel insulted by this work. You can read all about it in the newspapers.
It really leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth when some of Haacke’s followers supposedly can’t recognize what is insulting about his statements and instead talk about compelling powers of expression. While the artwork’s conceptual framework is stale enough, its main political statement is even worse. Here Haacke adheres to the following simplistic recipe: reduce Germany, its history and its people, to the terrible twelve years of National Socialism; throw in some sinister terms like Volkssturm and Volksgerichthof; then distort everything to make it look really evil, horrid, and negative. Finally, define an opposing term like population that can be offered to the Germans as a quick, purifying solution, and everything will be okay.
(Hans-Werner Bertl (SPD): Stop! We can’t stand any more of this!)

Haacke sees the inscription “To the German People” and claims to be shocked, as he puts it. Then he spins a tale about the disastrous role of the German people in the twentieth century, in the course of which the positive developments of the past fifty-five years and everything that has changed in this country don’t seem to have occurred to him.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and portions of the FDP)

He comes to an unbelievable conclusion, which sounds incredible even against the backdrop of our Constitution: the Representatives of the Bundestag are not responsible to some mythical people but rather to the population. A glance at the Constitution would have revealed that all power derives “from the people” – from the German people – and the Representatives in this Reichstag . . .
Shout from the SPD: Bundestag, last time I checked!
Kauder: . . . are first and foremost supposed to represent the interests of the German people.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU and portions of the FDP)

Our self-declared patriot of the Constitution, though, clearly doesn’t understand this, as a press report from February 13, 2000, shows. In this statement to the press Haacke goes so far as this: “The racist definition of who belongs to the German people still claims lives to this day.” This is his explanation of his artwork. I don’t want this sort of explanation for an artwork in the German Bundestag.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU)

It is clearly a matter of politics, not aesthetics. That’s why deciding this issue in the Arts Committee ultimately wasn’t the proper place. It is good that we make clear to the population, here in the German Bundestag, that we won’t let ourselves be bullied by Haacke’s ideological arguments.
Mr. Thierse, just a few days ago, here in this building, as the keynote speaker for the celebration of the first free popular vote for the Volkskammer, you celebrated the people as the political sovereign. You expressed your joy that in the GDR the time had passed when there was a divide between the people on the one side and the representatives of the GDR’s National Front on the other.
On March 18, 1990, something came together in the GDR that belongs together: the sovereign people and the Representatives of that people. Should they be torn asunder ten years later by the agitation of an artist?
(Shouts from the SPD: “Oh!”)

We don’t want that!
(Applause from the CDU/CSU)

When, my dear colleagues, will we Germans learn to behave normally . . .
(Shouts from the SPD and Alliance 90/Greens: “Whoa!”)

. . . as normally as the French and the British? They have achieved a way of life based on liberty for the sovereign people of their states and still manage to treat residents of the country who don’t belong to that people with dignity. Here in Germany, though, there are still some who believe that you have to portray the German people in a negative light in order to be a good person. This is not my view.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU)

Which is why I – and I speak for the overwhelming majority of my colleagues in the CDU/CSU Bundestag faction – say “no” to this simplistic artwork, which is unworthy of our building. I say “no” to this attempt to make the German people seem contemptible and to define it by a short time in its history.
(Boos from the SPD and Alliance 90/Greens)

I say “no” to this attempt to distance the German Bundestag from its own people. I ask you to vote for the motion.
(Applause from the CDU/CSU; boos and shouts from the SPD and Alliance 90/Greens: “For shame!”)