Thoughts are Free

  • Artist: Susan Hiller
  • Creation date: 2011-2012
  • Object type: Installation

Not on display


Susan Hiller created this installation for dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel. The work is a sculptural presentation of her personal selection of songs related to political liberty and the desire for peace and justice. The title is borrowed from an old German folk song against political oppression and for freedom of the mind. It has recurred in various struggles over the centuries, and has at times been prohibited. The selection containing 100 songs ranges in time from the sixteenth century to the presentday revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and the Occupy movement.

Die Gedanken sind frei (Thoughs are Free) is not a playlist per se. Spectators can choose songs according to their own interests, memories, or beliefs, and they can also listen to others’ selections or read the lyrics on the walls. Hiller is primarily interested in seeing how people interact with the installation in different ways and in awaking the collective consciousness of the listeners. Songwriters and singers are often among the first to be imprisoned or assassinated by repressive governments, says the artist.

SONG BOOK – Die Gedanken sind frei accompanies the installation and includes the lyrics to all 100 songs. The book is illustrated with posters, newspaper articles, flyers, and slogans from the struggles related to the songs.

Susan Hiller began her career as an anthropologist. The human voice has underlain many of her works. Hiller’s often transcendent art combines the personal with the collective. She manages to render visible the invisible, and has described her practice as “paraconceptual”, placing it between the conceptual and the paranormal.

Text: Camilla Frøland Sramek

From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0


Susan Hiller

Visual artist

Born 1940, death 28.01.2019

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Die Gedanken sind frei (GER)
Din tanke er fri (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Jukeboks, musikk, veggtekst og benker
Kjøpt 2014
Inventory no.:
Part of exhibition:
Take Liberty!, 2014
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Larsen, Frode
© Hiller, Susan/BONO