Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument

The Gramsci Monument – a participatory wooden hut made of recycled materials, located in a housing project in South Bronx – is meant to function as a public artwork only communicating the artist’s vision of art. But, by choosing Antonio Gramsci as his muse, Thomas Hirschhorn is also selecting a sociologically charged figure.

Gramsci was an Italian supporter of Marxist theories. He was convinced that a self-created and self-regulated “counter-hegemony” could emerge and reverse the capitalist system. One might think that Hirschhorn was going in that direction by erecting a monument to the philosopher. But the Swiss artist in fact intended to “establish a definition of monument, to provoke encounters, to create an event, and to think Gramsci today.” Hirschhorn is not speaking about acting on Gramsci’s theories; the artist is not meaning to start up the revolution the philosopher thought of. This duality goes further: Hirschhorn constructed the Gramsci Monument as a commission by the Dia Foundation (fully part of the established American art world). Therefore, it remains questionable what the intention of the artwork is: conveying Gramsci’s revolutionary message, or Hirschhorn’s artistic approach.

The artist is here paradoxical in his method, using a revolutionary image to crystalize concepts that are not so revolutionary after all. If the message of the artwork might be sensed as unclear, it nevertheless succeeds in waking up curiosity regarding its content.

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