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PRINT May 2000

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Hans Haacke

IN 1937, BERTOLT BRECHT SUGGESTED that replacing the word Volk—a noun in vogue at the time among the ideologists of Aryan superiority—with the neutral, even bureaucratic Bevölkerung (population) would be one way to “avoid a lie.” Last month, German-born Conceptual artist Hans Haacke took Brecht’s cue and found himself in the spectral embrace of a debate about blood and soil in the new Germany.

In 1998, the German parliament (Bundestag) invited a number of artists to contribute work commemorating the reopening of the Reichstag building in Berlin as the seat of government. Haacke, a US resident for the last thirty-five years, intended to use the given data of the newly renovated building itself as a part of his project. In 1916, an inscription was added over the entrance to the structure that reads Dem Deutschen Volke (For the German People), a phrase with significant resonance for

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