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Saadiyat Island

005 / 8 May 2013



Anthony Downey


Hans Haacke's photographs, presented here alongside a report essay for Ibraaz by Gulf Labor, explore the symbolic disjunction between the dreamscapes of the future and the often brutal realities that underwrite their construction. When we look more closely at globalization (alongside the ideological assumptions behind neo-liberal policies on deregulated, precarious labour), one of the more notable elements is the degree of outsourcing that is needed to maintain global systems of trade and development. In the images under consideration here there is a singular question being asked: what is it to live under the conditions of globalisation and deregulated labour? Or, more specifically, what is it to experience globalisation as an economic, social, historical and political fact of life – if not destructive influence on the security of those lives – rather than an abstract ideal or theoretical framework? However, and before we point the finger too forcibly, we should be ready to admit to a broader fact: the global art world is powered by precarious labour, whether it is the intern in a gallery in London or the worker producing an artwork in downtown Delhi or Shanghai. Precarity – as Guy Standing argues in The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011) – is and continues to be the order of the day for a whole new class of working individuals and communities across the globe. The images are presented here as works in their own right – a reflection on the realities of what a globalised culture looks like in real terms and what it is to endure its effects.

About the author

Hans Haacke

Hans Haacke, born Cologne, Germany, 1936 has lived in New York since 1965. He taught at The Cooper Union, New York from 1967 to 2002. For the last four decades, Haacke has been looking at the relationship between art, power and money, and has addressed issues of free expression and civic responsibilities in a democratic society. His early work dealt with physical and organic processes. Increasingly he then focused on the socio-political context in which art is exhibited and traded. one-person exhibition, scheduled at the Guggenheim Museum in 1971, was cancelled by the museum because of a visitors' poll and two works analyzing New York real estate empires.


One-person exhibitions of Haacke's work have been held at Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Tate Gallery, London; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg/Akademie der Künste, Berlin. His work was included in four Documentas and numerous biennials around the world, most recently at the Gwangju Biennial, 2008. After a heated national debate, a permanent installation was inaugurated in 2000 in the Reichstag, the German Parliament building in Berlin. Haacke shared a Golden Lion with Nam June Paik for the best pavilion of the 1993 Venice Biennial. "Free Exchange, "a conversation by the artist with Pierre Bourdieu, was published in 1994 (Stanford University Press, 1995). Translations have since appeared in eight languages.