Although this work has been in the back of my mind for a while, it isn’t the Hans Haacke piece I expected to write about first but somehow it seems like an appropriate way to follow on from Krzysztof Wodiczko‘s projection onto South Africa House and earlier posts about art, text and advertising.
Hans Haacke’s work most often critiques the power relationships within the art world – specifically the symbiotic relationship between museums and their corporate sponsors – but wider issues around institutional systems and corporate responsibility are also regularly subject to his critical gaze. Haacke’s commitment to exposing corruption and other dubious corporate practices is absolute and as a result his work is uncompromising even though he operates from within the art world he seeks to demystify.
The series A Breed Apart – which takes its title from Jaguar’s own advertising campaign – was first shown at Modern Art Oxford (then known as the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford) in 1978. The series took state-owned (and Oxford-based) British Leyland – which included Jaguar and Land Rover amongst others – adverts as its starting point but replaced text and images to highlight the company’s involvement in the apartheid regime in South Africa to which it supplied vehicles for use by the police and armed forces and where it’s South African subsidiary didn’t recognise trade unions.
In this advert the text is taken from a British Leyland press release, juxtaposing the company’s own words with imagery that suggests a British Leyland military display is clearly nothing to boast about. Haacke highlights the disparity between the real world and the less than accurate representation of it in advertising.