Administrator’s Note: Two months ago a group of art theorists, professors and authors sat down at our panel on “Accumulation” to begin a dialogue on what we perceived as an “amassing or gathering [of] objects, documents and/or other items for express purposes either of art installations or recognition of such accretion as a legitimate manifestation of art production.” My colleague, Dr. Nana Last, and myself had “amassed” a strong group for our CAA2012 session and it was a resounding success. Today I have the distinct pleasure of sharing one of the session papers with readers of this site. Dr. Philip Ursprung, Professor of History of Art and Architecture at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, presented the following essay on Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn. “Who's afraid of accumulation?” considers the question of the structure of accumulation itself and the relations it establishes between the amassing of data, capitalist expansion and the potential loss of control. With the kind permission of Dr. Ursprung, his paper will be posted in two parts:
Thomas Hirschhorn, born in 1957, studied graphic design in Zurich before leaving his native Switzerland for Paris. In Paris, he joined the design collective Grapus. The members of Grapus, founded in 1970, combined Situationist methods of finding inspiration in the street with the militant iconography of May 1968. Collage and bricolage were typical elements of Grapus’ design, as was the affinity to Soviet and Eastern European posters. Grapus shifted from rebellious collective to the mainstream in the 1980s and was dissolved in 1991. By that time Hirschhorn had already left the collective to become an independent artist who mainly works on his own. However, the notion of collage, the focus on the street life and the interest in the Marxist vocabulary remain central in his oeuvre. For Someone Takes Care of My Work (1992) Hirschhorn chose pieces of cardboard, collaged them with photos, marked them with text and signs, and left them in the street. They remained exposed to the public and finally were discarded by the garbage collectors like his 99 plastic bags (1995). After these performative art works Hirschhorn developed his so-called “displays” or “layouts” in public spaces. The Ingeborg Bachmann Altar in Zurich (1998) consisted of a variety of images, texts, objects that related to the Austrian writer. The altar was set up outside the Zurich Art Museum, recalling the spontaneous mourning sites that had been installed a year earlier after the death of Lady Diana. This alter and others such as the Altar Otto Freundlich were outdoor displays dedicated to artists and intellectuals that he worships as a “fan,” as he puts it. Often directly set in front of the museum they are less a critique of the museum as an institution but means of overcoming the exclusivity of the art world.
[Part two will be posted on April 30, 2012.]