Thomas Hirschhorn   
o.T. (4 Galeristen), 1989, newspaper clippings, cardboard, 60 x 45 cm

Born 1957 in Bern (Switzerland)
Lives and works in Paris (France)

“To be an artist is not a question of form or content, it is a question of responsibility.” Thomas Hirschhorn’s radical claim confusingly supplements the flood of images in his collages and the material battles that take place in his massive, overflowing installations. The use of found materials, reminiscent of Arte Povera, as well as the relentless use of various kinds of images from the Internet and other sources characterise the work and approach of Hirschhorn, a Swiss artist living in Paris. Despite the heterogeneity of the elements Hirschhorn uses, in the end he always creates something organic, a kind of “bricolage”, a concretion of “wild thinking” that can connect one thing with another in a meaningful way.

The work Untitled (Stalactites-red-table) is indicative of this ambitious approach. Untitled (Stalactites-red-table) is a sculptural structure constructed out of three tables arranged on top of one another, which engender thoroughly mixed emotions. Hirschhorn has formed numerous pointed cones out of aluminium foil and thereby has created a kind of dripstone cave in the space between the two upper tables. Indeed, the conical shapes are reminiscent of metallic stalagmites and stalactites. But their tips are dyed red and now look like bloody fangs in the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus cyborg. A kind of red aluminium umbilical cord leads from this ensemble to a wooden plate on the wall, which frames it like a picture. It turns out to be a projection screen for a small finger-like drawing as well as a historical photo showing the end of a mass execution from the 1930/40s in an Alpine location.

If we are honest about it: most of the images from the Internet have the character of intestines. They represent something like the “obscene innards of the global media" (David Joselit). Seen in this way, the symbolic stalactite cave with bloody fangs is the mouth of a voracious monster, similar to the leviathan. Some viewers will also be reminded of Kafka’s penal colony, in which the misdemeanours of the condemned were written on their bodies with precise equipment. The text is stabbed deeper and deeper into them – until they die. Indeed, Thomas Hirschhorn transfers his radical demands onto the observers of his works. He expects a lot of them – and that's a good thing.

Text: Peter Friese