Germany Downsizes Culture; Hans Haacke Talks Politics; More


Die Zeit's Christof Siemes digests a troubling announcement: The German foreign secretary, Joschka Fischer, plans drastic budget cuts for Germany's international cultural institutes, including the Goethe Institut and the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service), or DAAD, which runs the high-profile Artists in Berlin program. In the next three years, €45 million ($55 million) will disappear. By 2007, the cuts will amount to one-third of the entire budget for the country's international cultural programs.

Siemes sees nothing less than a “frontal assault” on the institutes and a “radical shift” in Germany's foreign policy. As he explains, culture has been a “third pillar,” alongside diplomacy and economics, in Germany's foreign policy to date. “After the attacks of September 11, [culture] was even supposed to act as a sort of wonder weapon in the war on international terrorism,” writes Siemes. “According to the idealists, whoever had learned about the democratic West in a [German] language course, through the help of a research grant, or during a visit to the theater would no longer want to blow [the West] up. But since things were never so simple, and since the equation ‘€1 million for culture equals one less terrorist’ is difficult to prove . . . the whole principle is being put into question. After decades of close collaboration, no one wants dialogue with other nations and cultures, unless it’s about business. It doesn’t matter that this is seen as a breach of trust by other countries. Culture is no longer a pillar, only a 'subsidy.'”


Even a contract, it seems, doesn't guarantee continued funding. As Die Tageszeitung's Gregor Jansen reports, programming at Essen's Kokerei Zollverein—a contemporary art center located in the former Zollverein Coal Mine industrial complex—has been brought abruptly to a halt. Directors Florian Waldvogel and Marius Babias, who had already secured funding for projects in 2004, discovered that their jobs had been eliminated on December 31, 2003. Among other projects, “Ramp”—a multifunctional skate ramp that was to be built in the former customs building—has been canceled.

The German state of North Rhine–Westphalia intends to run all existing projects at the Kokerei Zollverein site with the aid of the development company Entwicklungsgesellschaft Zollverein (EGZ). No further plans, involving contemporary art or not, have been announced. While Waldvogel and Babias held up their end of their contracts by bringing in additional federal funding for projects, at the state level the money is apparently no longer there. “To both project directors,” writes Jansen, “it looks as if [there] is no more interest in continuing this small yet highly energized, heavily theorized, and praxis-oriented program on a [UNESCO] World Heritage site.”


The Neue Zürcher Zeitung's Gabriele Hoffmann asks Hans Haacke about the trials and tribulations of politicized art. “It's uncomfortable for me to be identified as a 'political artist,'” Haacke told the newspaper. “The work of an artist with such a label is in danger of being understood one-dimensionally. Without exception, all artworks have a political component—whether it's intended or not. . . . There's a widespread assumption in the public—and often among art professionals—that art has nothing to do with politics and that politics can only contaminate artworks. Then one is put in the ‘political’ corner and practically excommunicated. Sociologically, that's an extremely interesting phenomenon.”


Il Manifesto's Tiziana Casapietra spoke with the architect and urbanist Stefano Boeri about the relationship between art and architecture. Boeri, who teaches at Venice's IUAV University and cofounded the collective Multiplicity, began his tenure last January as the new director of the architectural, design, and art journal Domus with a feature on Cedric Price's anti-architecture. “It seems to me that in recent years visual arts and architecture have often looked at the same thing: the city, lived space, the 'urban condition,'” Boeri told Il Manifesto. “[There's] a common concern with other disciplines like anthropology, urban sociology, geography. But the novelty—with respect to the rhetoric of interdisciplinarity from the ‘60s and ‘70s—is that today we still look at the same things, yet from disciplinary and linguistic fields that remain diverse, specific. It's become more important to work on the translation of concepts and terms from one sphere of knowledge to another. It's fascinating work because it means learning how to make concepts and the names of things oscillate, to prevent them from crystallizing.”


Il Manifesto's Francesco Poli takes a look at the “unstable territories” of the Rome Quadrennial. For Poli, the quadrennial is a “declining institution” that has had “no real cultural function” since its inauguration in 1931. This fourteenth edition has been divided into three different exhibitions at three different locations: Naples (2003), Turin (2004), and Rome (2005). The show in Turin, which ran from January 17 to March 21, was curated by Beatrice Buscaroli, Luca Beatrice, Flaminio Guardoni, Alessandro Riva, and Gabriele Simongini. It presented artworks by ninety-five artists from northern Italy, organized into four categories: “Territori” (Territories), “Relazioni” (Relations), “Permanenze” (Sojourns), and “Realismi” (Realisms). Despite the metaphors of movement and the quadrennial's nomadic nature, Poli found that the works themselves were installed too closely together. “It's only with a bit of patience,” writes Poli, “that one can appreciate, here and there, works that succeed in emerging for their specific aesthetic identity.”

Jennifer Allen