Hans Haacke in Frankfurt, 1976

IN ADVANCE of federal elections, the interior ministers of the West German states, in cooperation with Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was fighting to be reelected, issued a Radikalenerlass (Decree Against Radicals) in January 1972 as part of an anticommunist agenda to root out security risks. With the country in political crisis, the law made civil-service applicants the targets of domestic intelligence investigation by the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) and was the latest official move to counter fears inflamed by increasingly violent attacks by the guerrilla Red Army Faction. Hans Haacke’s exhibition at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, curated by its director, Georg Bussmann, opened four years later, in the weeks leading up to the next cycle of elections, and was the first in which the artist directly took on the barbed complexities of

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