Using materials such as tinfoil, Xerox copies, adhesive tape, and cardboard, Thomas Hirschhorn gives form to cultural critique and composes questions about consumerism, media spectacle, aesthetic value and moral responsibility. Since 1999, Hirschhorn has dedicated four monuments to his most admired philosophers—Spinoza, Bataille, Deleuze, and Gramsci. Paid residents of Forest Houses, in the South Bronx, New York built his last endeavour, Gramsci Monument (2013). In this work, the artist pays homage to Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) by following his cultural strategy of a ‘war of position’², which describes a process of building strength in social foundations by creating alternative institutions and intellectual resources of a civil society. The temporary monument, now demolished, appeared as an outdoor assemblage of plywood shelters comprised of a community library, bar, lecture platform, rooms for children’s workshops, and an onsite radio station running daily programs which promote leaning, discursive and other expressive practices to generate an autonomous culture. The structure constituted a critique against urban consumerism, which deprives the fundamental freedom to think and voice as individuals. The exhibition includes the artist’s lecture slides, interview, and texts, as well as a selection of publications by and about the four philosophers.
According to Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, "Radical Democracy" does not only accepts dissent and antagonisms but also depends on it, and argues that there are oppressive power relations in society that must be made visible, re-negotiated, and altered. The exhibition urges a crucial importance to seek intrinsic borders of difference in a seemingly homogeneous society. The following questions may be contested: What emotive prompts evoke questions of ethics? What instigates desire to move beyond consensual intertia? How is it possible to effectively negotiate between social imagination and social reality?
"Radical Democracy" is curated by Asakusa and Dr. Masaru Araki, Vice-President of Okayama University. Asakusa would like to thank Sanya Labour Welfare Action Committee for providing their distribution materials, and Embassy of Switzerland in Japan for their support to realize this exhibition.
Thomas Hirschhorn, Santiago Sierra
Artists recommended by Kounosuke Kawakami (Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts)