Hans Haacke. Der Bevölkerung (To the Population), Detail. Reichstag (German Parliament Building), Berlin. Hans Haacke/ VG Bild-Kunst. - PDF

98 Hans Haacke. Der Bevölkerung (To the Population), Detail. Reichstag (German Parliament Building), Berlin. Hans Haacke/ VG Bild-Kunst. Photo: Hans Haacke. Every Form of Art Has a Political Dimension

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98 Hans Haacke. Der Bevölkerung (To the Population), Detail. Reichstag (German Parliament Building), Berlin. Hans Haacke/ VG Bild-Kunst. Photo: Hans Haacke. Every Form of Art Has a Political Dimension CHANTAL MOUFFE, INTERVIEWED BY ROSALYN DEUTSCHE, BRANDEN W. JOSEPH, AND THOMAS KEENAN 1 Branden W. Joseph: Since Grey Room is primarily dedicated to questions of aesthetic practice, I d like to begin by asking how you would understand forms of cultural discourse for example, art having access to the political or, rather, to the strictly political in the way you have come to de ne it through your work on Carl Schmitt? 2 As Derrida notes in Politics of Friendship although we don t need to go to Derrida for this the political exists for Schmitt on two levels: the political as a particular aspect (which Schmitt is always opposing to the economic, for example, or the moral ), and the political as a determination that occurs throughout all other strata of the world and, thus, potentially includes economics, morality, and, I would assume, culture and aesthetics as well. In your conceptualization of the political, how does it act on these two levels? Or is there some other articulation of a cultural discourse and a strictly political discourse? Chantal Mouffe: The distinction I make is inspired by Schmitt. 3 It s certainly not made in the same way by Schmitt, but I think my idea is faithful to what he said. What I call the political is the dimension of antagonism the friend/enemy distinction. And, as Schmitt says, this can emerge out of any kind of relation. It s not something that can be localized precisely; it s an ever-present possibility. What I call politics, on the other hand, is the ensemble of discourses and practices, institutional or even artistic practices, that contribute to and reproduce a certain order. These are always in conditions that are potentially con ictual because they are always informed by, or traversed by, the dimension of the political. In that context, they can be linked to Gramsci s ideas of common sense and of hegemony. Politics is always about the establishment, the reproduction, or the deconstruction of a hegemony, one that is always in relation to a potentially counter-hegemonic order. Since the dimension of the political is always present, you can never have a complete, absolute, inclusive hegemony. In that context, artistic and cultural practices are absolutely central as one of the levels where identi cations and forms Grey Room 02, Winter 2001, pp Grey Room, Inc. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology 99 of identity are constituted. One cannot make a distinction between political art and non-political art, because every form of artistic practice either contributes to the reproduction of the given common sense and in that sense is political or contributes to the deconstruction or critique of it. Every form of art has a political dimension. Rosalyn Deutsche: That s why I, like many artists and critics, avoid the term political art : Precisely because it asserts that other art indeed art per se or so-called real art is not political, political art is a powerful political weapon, one that is routinely deployed to ghettoize art that avows the political. Similarly, the term feminist art insinuates that art itself is free of sexual politics. BWJ: Yet there s a quote by Schmitt that you, Chantal, use quite a bit, about liberalism oscillating between the moral and the economic, which seems to imply that there is a level that somehow does not accede to the properly political. CM: That s where I want to distinguish between the political and politics. Some artistic practices can become the locus of the political in the Schmittian sense, as the dimension of antagonism, just like any other kind of practice, when they become constructed in terms of friend and enemy. Then they become political in Schmittian terms, like moral relations that can become political, or like economic relations that can become political. As I said, the political is not something that is located anywhere speci c; it emerges out of any relation. BWJ: And it s precisely at that point, when artistic practices accede to the level of the Schmittian political, that all of those institutional forces come into play as they did with Haacke s submission to the Whitney Biennial this year that say, this is not art, it s politics and therefore shouldn t be allowed. The same, of course, happened before with Haacke s real estate pieces in the 1970s. RD: Which is a supremely political act, just as the invocation of morality is most political when it s used to evade politics. Before the interview, Branden suggested that we discuss Haacke s new work for the Reichstag, which is a good idea since it s hard to think of a topic that more neatly combines art, architecture, and political philosophy, thereby bringing the four of us together. BWJ: I found it interesting that the de nition of the people within a Western democratic state, in this case Germany, has become the point of Haacke s proposal of placing in dialogue with the Reichstag s existing inscription, Dem Deutschen Volke, another one declaring, Der Bevölkerung. At issue seems to be a rede nition of the homogeneity that you have discussed as necessary for a democratic state, a rede nition of the political us/them or friend/enemy distinction. 100 Grey Room 02 Can this be considered an example of a new type of political identi cation or a re-identifying of the political imaginary that you ve been proposing? CM: I nd this an extremely interesting issue. It is, as Rosalyn says, really a place where political philosophy, art, and architecture come together. If one considers this piece an intervention, something that would deconstruct or question the way in which the German people could be understood, it is fascinating. And of course that would mean questioning the idea that the Volk is understood on an ethnic basis. RD: What are your thoughts about Haacke s choice of the population to replace or contest the people of the Reichstag s existing inscription? Does the term population respond to what you consider the problem of how to imagine a commonality that is compatible with pluralism, how to form a democratic alternative to authoritarian uses of the people? It seems to me that in the German context, during a period of neo-nazi and anti-immigrant sentiment, population calls for the inclusion of non-citizen permanent residents in the de nition of the people. But I also think that Haacke s question resonates in a far broader context: all Western cities that are marked by unprecedented numbers of non- Western foreigners the result of global migration streams and by violence against strangers. CM: If Haacke were proposing to replace the inscription Dem Deutschen Volke by Der Bevölkerung, I wouldn t nd this adequate. I don t think that der Bevölkerung, the population, is a political concept. Indeed, some of the discussions in Germany point, perhaps unknowingly, to that fact in arguing that the piece is somehow anticonstitutional. The population is not a concept that can be the locus of popular sovereignty. It s a descriptive, sociological concept. And the Reichstag must, of course, be the locus of the people in a political sense. That doesn t mean that the people must be understood only in terms of race, or even, necessarily, in terms of the people who are at the moment German citizens. If Haacke s piece is seen as a way of questioning the manner in which the German people is currently de ned, then it is a very interesting intervention. In terms of political philosophy, it points to the need to rede ne the people, to extend it by introducing people who have until now not been considered citizens. But that should not happen by abandoning the idea of the people because it s necessarily related to either a Nazi past or to a certain type of exclusion. The existence of a certain type of exclusion is something that politics cannot do without. That is one of the questions I ve been trying to address in my thinking about Pages : Hans Haacke. Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings: A Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971, Detail. Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst. Installation Photo: Fred Scruton. Mouffe Every Form of Art Has a Political Dimension 101 102 Grey Room 02 Mouffe Every Form of Art Has a Political Dimension 103 Schmitt and the idea of the demos. You cannot have a demos if it is not in some sense exclusive. The very idea of the demos simultaneously implies both a logic of inclusion within and exclusion without. It can never be the case that everyone who happens to be in a certain territory be it France or Germany should be entitled to vote. There needs to be a de nition of who constitutes the body of citizens, who constitutes the people. This is something that needs to be discussed in Germany less now, perhaps, with the broader immigration laws, although the conception of the people is still too restricted. However, it can never be a question of replacing the political conception of the people with the sociological concept of the population. Thomas Keenan: Somehow Haacke s Reichstag piece implicitly follows a narrative from Foucault, doesn t it? There s a shift from a notion of politics that refers ultimately to the people and the logic of popular sovereignty politics understood as the problem of sovereignty to what Foucault called bio-politics within a disciplinary regime, in which the privileged categories are, precisely, population and territory. 4 CM: Yes. That is right. But the same objection could be made to what Foucault calls bio-politics, which designates the form of governmentality developed by liberalism. Liberalism does away with political concepts and attempts to replace them with non-political ones like humanity or population. For that reason, the logic of liberalism is always in tension with the democratic one, which requires the possibility of drawing a frontier between who belongs and who does not belong. This is why I have recently argued that we should acknowledge the paradoxical nature of liberal democracy. 5 RD: Haacke makes at least two gestures in his installation. The larger gesture is raising the democratic question, that is, making the people a question. The work sets in motion an ongoing debate in the very seat of state power, which in a democracy resides elsewhere: in the people. And the symbol of that power is embodied in the Reichstag, a neoclassical building, with all the obvious connotations of solid, timeless truths that supposedly derive from a source outside the social world. To me, the work is like a performance of Claude Lefort s idea that democracy emerges and stays alive only when the meaning of society is uncertain and therefore open to question. 6 The space between the two Reichstag inscriptions, the space of the question, is the heart of the work. A second gesture is opening a question speci c to the German site. The status of immigrants is going to be raised in viewers minds immediately. So population Portico, Reichstag (German Parliament Building), Berlin. Photo: Stefan Müller. 104 Grey Room 02 isn t really a neutral term; it s already politicized by the present context. Haacke is very careful to pay attention to the moment. Your objection to population reminds me a bit of your objection to humanity as a political category. You say that this category because it is seemingly all-inclusive denies that the people is constituted through exclusion and a moment of closure. Therefore it evades the political. How do you feel about theories which propose that in current circumstances we should construct a political subject with a different identity than that of the citizen? For example, Giorgio Agamben, drawing on Hannah Arendt, wants to make the refugee, who interrupts the nation-state, the key political gure for our time. 7 CM: Arendt, when she speaks of the right to have rights, insists that the right to have rights is citizenship. If you are not a citizen, you don t have the right to have rights. Thus, in fact, she insists very much on the importance of being a citizen. She does not propose the refugee as the new political subject, but sees the refugee as a symptom of a problem. The solution is not to replace the guarantee of the citizen by the guarantee of the refugee. Rather, we should make those refugees citizens of a country because it is only on that basis that they will have rights. Arendt is critical of the idea of purely human rights. She thinks that there is something very problematic about human rights because, if they are not at the same time citizenship rights, they are abstract and do not correspond to anything. RD: Arendt also says that the right to have rights is the right of every individual to belong to humanity. If the right to have rights is understood as the right to declare rights, which is to say the right to politics, how can we say that only the citizen can declare this right? TK: Obviously, the question of rights and their basis, human or otherwise, is unusually complicated. The question goes to the heart of what politics might mean for us. Etienne Balibar addresses this elegantly in his reading of the 1789 French Declaration, which claimed rights for man and citizen. Is it because you re a citizen that you have access to human rights? Or is it because you re a Mouffe Every Form of Art Has a Political Dimension 105 human that you have access to citizen s rights? There s a tension, fundamental or at least irreducible, there. Arendt tries to solve it in the direction of privileging and demanding citizenship for all humans. Humans don t become political until they are accepted, recognized, and legitimated as citizens. That s the politicizing move in Arendt: to insist that humans have to be granted access to citizenship or else they don t have rights. What Rosalyn is suggesting, I think, is that it would be plausible to say that humans have a kind of a meta-right, a right to politics. It s not automatically granted; it has to be struggled for and so on like all rights, by the way but when you, as it were, make it into politics, then you transcend your merely human existence. That s what you strive for. The depoliticizing move is to eject people from citizenship back into humanity, which is what Arendt wants to ght against. The hyphen in what Balibar calls the man-citizen he insists on the identi cation or the equation of the apparently different concepts, originally joined by the and of the Declaration, and rewrites it with a hyphen and an equal sign 8 is dif cult to read, and politically important, precisely because it opens the possibility of this slippage. CM: I still think humanity is not a political concept, although it can clearly be used in a political way. The rhetoric of rights and the rhetoric of humanity are very powerful instruments in interrupting the danger that is inscribed in the democratic logic: the movement toward exclusion, which is what I tried to explain in my article on Schmitt. Too many liberal democrats believe that liberty and equality necessarily go together. There is actually a very profound tension between the two ideas, and in my last book this democratic paradox is precisely what I tried to explain. In a certain sense, I think Schmitt is right when he says that liberalism negates democracy and democracy negates liberalism because, in fact, they are two different logics which are ultimately incompatible. Where I think Schmitt is wrong is when he says that, as a consequence, liberal democracy is an unviable regime and must necessarily self-destruct. What I ve been trying to show is that, in fact, what he sees as the main fundamental weakness of liberal 106 Grey Room 02 democracy is its great strength. In essence, the articulation of those two independent logics creates the space in which pluralist democracy is possible. Within the pure logic of democracy is inscribed the possibility of totalitarianism, and the logic of liberalism, without its articulation with democracy, would be a pure logic of dissemination, a logic of difference without any possibility for the struggle for equality or self-government. Within the articulation of these two logics, however, liberalism and the reference to humanity constantly subvert the totalitarian tendency to exclusion inscribed within the democratic project. The democratic logic of creating a demos and establishing a frontier is also what allows for the creation of citizenship and the exercise of rights. The exercise of rights is the important part of the equation. For, the liberal logic is a logic of the assertion of rights, but it s only within its articulation with democracy through participation in a demos, through being a democratic citizen that you can exercise rights. It s one thing to have rights, it s another to be able to exercise those rights. Without the link between liberalism s rights and democracy, we would just have rights, human rights, without the possibility of exercising them. That, I think, is what Arendt was saying. If you don t have the possibility of being a citizen of a nation, you can t exercise your rights. But where I see the importance of the idea of humanity is in its capacity to interrupt the idea of the demos and bring to the fore the fact that a demos is always predicated on the exclusion of certain people. RD: So population can be used in the same ways as humanity. CM: Yes. RD: But insofar as population breaks the identity between birth and nationality, it is politicizing, not neutralizing. Also, it s so deadpan, whereas humanity is a very inspiring concept. That s one reason people objected to Haacke s piece. How can you be inspired by the term the population? Can you imagine saying we, the population? But I read somewhere that Haacke considered the uninspiring quality of the term to be a virtue. Given German history among many other histories one can understand why. CM: It s problematic to replace the idea of the people by the idea of the population, for the latter is not something that can provide an identi cation. A democratic citizen is somebody who identi es with being part of the people, and merely being part of the population is not, in this sense, a political identi cation. Its importance is in showing the limitations that go into the de nition of the people, or, in this case, the German people. Who constitutes the German Hans Haacke. Der Bevölkerung (To the Population), Reichstag (German Parliament Building), Berlin. Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst. Photo: Hans Haacke. Mouffe Every Form of Art Has a Political Dimension 107 people? In Germany, there are obviously people who are not part of the German nation, so how can we rede ne the German people so that the gap between the people and the population will be minimized? But, even though we should try to make the German people as inclusive as possible, there will never be a complete identi cation between the population and the people. BWJ: In that sense, what Haacke s piece establishes is a permanent mechanism of subverting or critiquing the historical meaning of the Volk at a particular moment in time, a mechanism by which one can disarticulate and rearticulate the idea of the people. CM: Yes, and this is happening constantly. From that point of view I nd the work really interesting. It s a question of constantly making people aware of the gap between the people and the population. But you cannot simply replace the people. In politics, in democratic politics, you need a form of identi cation. The Bevölkerung is not a political concept. BWJ: If population is too sociological a concept to become a political concept, what is the mechanism by which one then rearticulates the political? Is there any way the sociological concept of the population can become a political concept, without simply accessioning more people to the Volk with all of the historical connotations that it has in
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