Thomas Hirschhorn
Switzerland, 1957
Thomas Hirschhorn studied graphic design at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich and worked in this field when he first arrived in Paris in the early eighties. Soon after his arrival, he joined a group of communist designers known as Grapus. In their actions, they used the language of outdoor advertising to deliver activist slogans, thus appropriating the commercialisation of public messages. Since 1986, he has dedicated himself exclusively to his work as an artist. His artwork is largely focused on super-saturated installations made from everyday materials, which derive political undertones from being universal, inclusive consumer goods that once reused do not have any added material value. His earliest pieces are urban and site-specific, providing not only an aesthetic experience, but also plenty of material for reflection. He has been called an “installation philosopher” because of the way he applies the reasoning of contemporary, left-wing, French thinkers like Alain Badiou or Mehdi Belhaj Kacem to artworks that revisit the overarching logic of popular structures like pavilions, altars, kiosks, bookstores or shop windows. An example of this can be found in Vitrine Murale (Goya), made in 2007, which turns the disasters of the Aragonese master into part of the public sphere. His installations are precarious monuments, yet enormous in scale, leading to comparisons with Kurt Schwitters’ Merz in terms of the work’s cumulative scope. In contrast to the avant-garde artist, however, Thomas Hirschhorn creates installations intended as spaces for public use in which to reclaim the world through contemporary art. His way of understanding chaos as something complex and capable of containing everything—adding, but never subtracting possibilities for action—brings together information in a manner that is easy to read, thus becoming a point of reference in the critique of the society of spectacle. Awarded the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2001 and the Joseph Beuys Prize in 2004, he has had solo exhibitions at the MoMA, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Tate Modern. In 2011, he represented Switzerland at the Venice Biennale. He is currently working on a public monument in homage to Gramsci in New York with the support of the Dia Art Foundation.
Manuel Segade