Photos: © Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 . + mgk siegen
The experience of working as an exhibition guard and art handler at documenta 2 in 1959 was fundamental to Hans Haacke’s understanding of the operative rules of the field of art. Overhearing curators’ conversations dissuaded him, for instance, from ever depending on the sale of his art to cover his basic expenses. He was then a student at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, aiming to represent the dynamic character of the world through painting. It became evident that he could not achieve his goals in that medium, so he started to mess around with reflective objects made of stainless steel and plastics. Experiments with clear containers into which water was inserted, forming condensation patterns in reaction to the container’s environment, were followed by aerodynamic works with lightweight fabrics and balloons, refrigerated works, and steam-generating pieces, leading to investigations with plants and animals. The physical and biological processes in these works followed their own laws, indifferent to the spectator.