Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The Map Of Friendship between Art and Philosophy. Hirschhorn and Steinweg

In 2007 Thomas Hirschhorn and Marcus Steinweg worked together designing The Map of friendship between art and philosophy.
Written words and images are linked together, developing a network of practical engagement with the outside world.
Hirschhorn’s love for philosophy is not new. The Swiss artist has always declared his passion for a subject that he doesn’t really see statically in its theoretical statements, but in its material evolving commitment with a society continuously open to changes.
This materialist approach brought the artist to use for his works mostly commodities. Each one reflects the object life’s time in the everyday world. We soon realize how the commodity is everything but timeless. Its value belongs to its usability, once the object loses its function it’s not useful anymore from a capitalistic logic point of view.
Obviously Hirschhorn acts in a provocative way, he loves to stimulate his viewer’s opinion and to give him the tools -firstly cognitive ones- to change the reality he lives in. Well, like Marx suggested, let’s stop wasting our time in trying to interpret the world, and start to change it.
His art is ob-scene, in the sense it shows everything.
Also what the bourgeois sense of shame has previously castrated, left out from the representation of the truth.
Hirschhorn is interested in what is kept outside the mise en scene and he hyperbolically demonstrates the catastrophic power of the ruins, the rest of what was an object valid exclusively for its use.
Towers of broken televisions scotched altogether, gossip magazines not interesting anymore because celebrities already run out of their 5 minutes of fame, heaps of mobile phones that probably people don’t fancy anymore due to their being outdated. These ruins create a melancholic scenario, but at the end their solitude is too loud for sadness to powerfully embrace all scene and it’s hard to avoid a sarcastic smile.
Cristal of resistence. T. Hirschhorn

The reflection on Hirschhorn’s art comes from this morning workshop at Edinburgh College of Art. My colleague Lewis den Hertog made me think about it.
If it’s true that art is always a political issue, the Swiss artist is the perfect exemplification of it.
Let’s go back to the Map.
I love the title, I love all Hirschhorn titles.
I do believe there must be a deep connection with the words of the title and the artwork’s body. They should interact in order to make more visible the materiality of the parole, the concreteness of a language too often taken for granted.
This title embodies the idea of friendship, meant as a relation that is obviously supported by a sort of magical empathy, but also derived from a conscious decision of mutual engagement.
All the words written down are easily mistaken at the first glimpse for abstract concepts.
However, they are not.
As well as we should remember every day how fallible is the idea of immaterial labour, we should keep in mind that some words are defined as abstract just as a matter of cataloguing. It’s the materiality of the empirical level that we need to manipulate in order to change the reality.
Hope is then the will of making dreams become true, Courage is the assumption of our own responsibility in everyday choices, Resistance is to sacrifice our self in the very etymologic term of the word. To sacrifice means to make something sacred, in my act of resisting I’m taking some actions not just for my self but also in a much wider prospective of interests.
Thomas Hirschhorn was the only artist representing Switzerland at this year Venice Biennale.
His familiarity with the mainstream art spontaneously raises questions on the factual sincerity of his assault toward capitalist economy.
Nevertheless the aesthetic and the concrete meaning of his art are great critical tools. His creative perspective of reality does help the viewer in not taking for granted what’s going on and in attempting to constantly manipulate the reality.
As the artist says, “This is something essential to art: reception is never its goal. What counts for me is that my work provides material to reflect upon. Reflection is an activity."

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I’m wondering if Jacques Derrida had ever met The Devo.
Part of London exhibition Post Modernism Style and Subversion is dedicated to 80s music, a profoundly symbolical field for that age, where everything seemed to be dominated by an ironic melancholic and without direction pastiche of styles.
Devo is an American band from Ohio, they formed in 1973 and every now and then they still appear on shows or television.
Their genre has always been a mixed one, in between pop, punk and industrial sounds. Synthetic instrumentations are a constant feature of most of their famous songs (Mongoloid or Whip it for example). They do represent what a multi media artist should be, whose approach has to be skilful and always ready to adapt itself to new experiments.
The name Devo is the abbreviation for Devolution. At that time the term Post Modernism was nearly there to be coined by Lyotard, when in 1979 he published his famous prophetical book, which absolutely created a new perception of reality.
As soon as people started to talk about Post Modernism, all the past categories of knowledge through which man have always liked to describe their world, collapsed in melancholic and majestic ruins.
However, the past was still there, influencing the present in a drastic but ironic and sneaky way.
The idea of devolution comes out from questioning our selves about having ever been modern. It’s a playful position in which the progress is not seen anymore as an excellent quality we achieved, but quite the contrary, as a disgraceful veneration of false idols.
It’s better to stop this evolution toward something that it’s not even very clear in its essence. The tragic behaviour of believing in the rational linearity of our own thoughts is extremely laughable and very often music is a lucky mimesis of this.
The Devo have always performed a meaningful pastiche of paradoxes. Irony and desolation, brightness and dark sides voluntary shown off, industry and nature are just some of the dichotomous couples that keep the audience always receptive to their provocations.
Devolution brings us to Deconstruction. The terms do share a very similar attitude toward reality and its phenomena.
The latter refers to the famous and influencing school of thoughts, which has its roots in France during the late Sixes.
Jacques Derrida is doubtless one of its founders for the originality and depth of his thinking.

Derrida major and initial prospective was a linguistic one. He has been always and essentially interested in writing and reading, probably being conditioned by the linguistic turn that dominated philosophy since Wittgenstein became its conditio sine qua non.
Deconstruction doesn’t mean destroying everything mindless of any distinction.
The first punk wave was already gone and people turned themselves against the extreme negation of the future in favour of a mere prospective of pure chaos.
De-construction implies maintaining the past we are sited on, as a matter of fact we can deny it.
But our duty is to re-create it, to revisit its ruins and, why not, make jokes on them.
The essence of punk was a complete overcrossing of values, the first and original punk went beyond the good and bad, while, in the 80s people started to feel again the need of analysis and critic, although keeping a careful distance from the absolute theoretical approach of the late 60s early 70s.
Devo’s same paradoxical attitude characterizes also The Fall, an English band formed in Manchester in 1976, mainly gravitating on the singer leader’s figure Mark E. Smith.

Smith is an eccentric master of oxymoron. His drunk lyrics are the perfect expression for a mindful cynical social realism. Smith is a poet of our contemporary time, he knows very well how to pull society’s leg and he does this deftly using a subtle equilibrium between hysterical surrealism and very pragmatic sense of reality.
What Smith borrows from the past is a clear declaration of historical continuity. Ancient ruins are examples of our human intrinsic stupidity.
He takes the piss of government in order to make people aware of the constant risk of a ridicule and dangerous self-repetition.
The continuity between time and space is once again witnessed by the name of the band. The Fall was in fact Camus last book. In 1956 the French literate and thinker wrote a series of philosophical monologues. They are the description of the life of a French man who tells his story at the presence of a stranger. It’s impressive how the unknown, far away from being perturbing, has become a comforting place of familiarity.
I guess the exhibition on Post Modernism reminded me above all the subversive power of a laugh.
Probably it’s time for a new revolution but so far we haven’t taken enough distance from our past in order to give things a very different status.
This is Post Modernism. 
But I was told it’s already finished.