First 'Sensation,' now 'Sanitation'

Receiving the most advance publicity was an installation by Hans Haacke called "Sanitation." The work denounces New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani's attempt to deny funding to the Brooklyn Museum last fall. (The museum's "Sensation" exhibition included a work Guiliani found insulting.)

The centerpiece of Haacke's work is a reproduction of Jasper John's "Three Flags," in which three American flags of declining size are layered. In Haacke's version, the topmost flag is falling off, implying the threat to democracy he perceives in censorship of free expression. Twelve garbage cans emit a soundtrack of marching boots, while Fraktur lettering associated with Nazi proclamations spells out quotations from Guiliani threatening to put the Brooklyn Museum "out of business." Haacke also quotes cultural critics like Sen. Jesse Helms and Patrick Buchanan, who called the First Amendment "the last refuge of the modern scoundrel."

Haacke, a deliberate provocateur throughout his career, notes on the audiotape parallels between enemies of artistic freedom today and in Nazi Germany, which tried to suppress modern art it termed "degenerate."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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