Thomas Hirschhorn

(b. 1957)

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(1957– )

Swiss installation artist. Born in Bern, he lives and works in Paris. He builds ephemeral structures out of disposable materials such as cardboard, tin foil, and tape. These are intended to provoke ideas about democracy and participation. He has made installations dedicated to important thinkers such as the philosopher Spinoza and most famously Bataille, to whom he dedicated a ‘monument’ in the 2002 documenta. This was a kind of pavilion which Hirschhorn constructed in a housing estate outside the main exhibition centre, using only the paid assistance of the residents. In the pavilion there was a display which documented Bataille's life and ideas. Visitors to the documenta saw the work by means of a ‘shuttle service’, cars driven to and from the monument by residents of the estate. Hirschhorn, who believes strongly in the participation of a ‘non-art world’ audience, regarded this as an important part of the experience of the work. A more overtly political statement was made by his work for the 1999 Venice Biennale. The installation included a world map in the form of a rank of model aircraft in the colours of the national airlines, an array of branded goods, and images of socialist martyrs such as Rosa Luxemburg. Hirschhorn has stated: ‘Freedom is what I am fighting for, and you only get freedom when you are fighting for it.’

Further Reading

M. Rappolt, ‘Studio: Thomas Hirschhorn’, Tate, no. 7

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries