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Hans Haacke: "A Breed Apart" in South Africa

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

Since the early 1960s, German-American artist Hans Haacke has been producing controversial work, often seeking to expose systems of power and influence. While some artists might work to engage with local concerns, Haacke brings his art and its topics to a global scale. In this video, he explains his 1978 photographic series A Breed Apart, a group of montages which targets former car manufacturer British Leyland and for its insidious campaigns and actions in apartheid—or racially segregated—South Africa. By juxtaposing slick advertising shots with images of Leyland vehicles “in action,” as he puts it, against the black indigenous population of South Africa, Haacke highlighted the incongruities of the company’s stance.



“I believe it is necessary for the public... the voters... to become aware of these interdependencies, and come up with, hopefully, an alternative,” says Haacke. Do you think art and artists have a responsibility to inform and activate the public?

Learn more about Hans Haacke and his politically engaged works of art here.

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Video transcript

I do not work systematically. All sorts of things go through my head and pieces fall into place. And then I have to focus on these pieces and refine them and make something coherent out of it. But the ideas are born in an uncontrolled manner. I became interested in things that actually perform independent of the viewer. And in the case of the 'Condensation Cube' it was important for me that it was not the object, namely a cube made of acrylic plastic but the actual physical exchange between the environment, including the viewer and what is enclosed in the cube. I was invited to have a solo exhibition at the museum in Oxford In spite of a growing boycott of the racist regime in South Africa British Leyland was also making military vehicles which were still supplied to the South African military forces. British Leyland also had a major factory near Oxford and one of the slogans called it 'a breed apart'. And, I drew from some of the advertisement, for the breed apart and juxtaposed them alternately with black and white photographs of the Land Rover in action against the back indigenous population of South Africa. Well, I believe it is necessary for the public for the voters to become aware of these interdependencies and come up with, hopefully, an alternative to it. I would like the visitors to have, more or less, all the information they need in order to make sense of what they are exposed to.