When Hans Haacke first exhibited MoMA Poll in 1970, he posed a single question to museum visitors: “Would the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixon’s Indochina policy be a reason for you not to vote for him in November?” Rockefeller was then the Governor of New York state and up for reelection; he was also a major trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. With this seemingly simple query, Haacke implicated the museum’s funding network in the violence of the Vietnam War. By asking the public to weigh in on Rockefeller’s political performance, moreover, he implicitly highlighted the complex, often invisible systems of political and economic power at play within the ostensibly neutral museum.
Taking its cues from the history of Haacke’s incisive institutional critique, this panel, presented as part of All Systems Go: A Symposium on Art, Social Systems, and Cultural Action, invited Alexander Alberro, Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History at Barnard College; artist Andrea Fraser; Deana Haggag, President of United States Artists; and Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director of the New Museum, to consider the following questions: Can artists effect change with work that examines the institutions that house or support them? How might a museum be ethically funded? What does it mean for artists and institutions to be accountable—for whom, to what end, and why?