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Activist artists hack poll in New Museum’s Hans Haacke retrospective

Survey results are changed out of concern that Haacke’s work is being “co-opted”

“Hans Haacke: All Connected,” 2019. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. © Hans Haacke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Over the weekend, the artist Grayson Earle and an anonymous collaborator, “M,” hacked into a survey-based artwork featured in the New Museum’s Hans Haacke retrospective. The interactive piece, titled New Museum Visitors Poll (2019), asks museum-goers a series of questions about their personal, political and economic views, and the hack drastically altered the survey’s results. Earle and “M” skewed the survey by over 50,000 votes, causing a question about global wealth inequality to result in 85% of poll participants choosing the response “Accumulation of wealth should not be interfered with.”

“We’re skeptical about the rhetoric of empowerment in liberal political discourse and felt it was necessary to question the political efficacy of a questionnaire acting as a release valve for the concerned museum-going public,” Earle told The Art Newspaper. “As fans of Haacke, we were concerned the politic in his recent work was being co-opted and wanted to imbue it with the same kind of transgression he achieved in early poll works.”

“Our actions were in part intended as solidarity with the staff unionisation effort and against the wild disparity in compensation between the staff and top level employees,” Earle added. He was referring to the arduous efforts to unionise that New Museum staff members went through in 2019, when after months of contention and threats of a strike, the employees reached a contract agreement with management in October.

The hacking incident was reported earlier by Artnet News. When asked about the event, a spokesperson from the museum said, “The breach has since been fixed by the programmer who worked with Haacke on the poll, and the work has been returned to the artist’s intent.”