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TOWARDS A GRAMMAR OF EMERGENCY
he swiss-born artist Thomas Hirschhorn builds from the bad new days, not the good old ones, as Bertolt Brecht urged us all to do.1 This is so because Hirschhorn aims to confront the present, which, in his idiom, is also to ‘agree’ with it. This is hardly to say that he approves of it; he agrees with it only in the sense that he finds most of his strategies and situations in ‘the capitalist garbage bucket’ that is our shared world.2 This way of working follows an important line on the Left that insists on the resources, cultural as well as political, that lie dormant in the ‘general intellect’ of the multitude, a multitude that, to different degrees, faces a state of emergency today. Here I want only to point to a few of the concepts Hirschhorn has developed to address this condition.3
Although Hirschhorn has long used the term précaire, its full significance was not always apparent. Initially the term denoted the insecure status and limited duration of his pieces, some of which, such as Travaux abandonnés and Jemand kümmert sich um meine Arbeit (both 1992), were made up of scraps of paper and board and left on the street to be picked up by others. For a while Hirschhorn merely distinguished the precarious from the ephemeral, which, as an attribute of nature more than man, did not interest him much as a strategy.4 (In any case, his is not a critique of the work of art as a fixed thing, or even as a commodity; he insists, in his own ways, on such values as aesthetic autonomy and artistic universality.) Soon enough, however, the precarious came to figure
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p. not only Musée Précaire Albinet in the Aubervilliers banlieue of Paris (2004). Hirschhorn writes. Thomas Hirschhorn. This ‘precariat’ is seen as a product of the post-Fordist economy. but nature doesn’t make decisions’: ‘Alison Gingeras in Conversation with Thomas Hirschhorn’. precarity might be more the rule and the Fordist promise of relative job security and union protection more the exception. with ramifications that are ethical and political alike. see Benjamin Buchloh. though historically. insurance or a pension) is anything but guaranteed. Los Angeles 2010. for Hirschhorn has sited some of his signal projects along this interface. in Alison Gingeras et al. to resist the facts’ (‘Ur-Collage’. For an incisive account of the precarious in this sense. a ‘society of risk’. indeed. 2 ‘To be in agreement [with the world] does not mean to approve’. What might be lost in a discursive shift from proletariat to precariat? Might the term normalize a specific condition. précarité is now used to describe the condition of vast numbers of labourers in neoliberal capitalism for whom employment (let alone health care. ‘Thomas Hirschhorn: Lay Out Sculpture and Display Diagrams’. The French précaire indicates a socioeconomic insecurity that is not as evident in the English ‘precarious’. Ur-Collage. It’s humans who decide and determine how long the work lasts. there are ‘smooth forms of precarization’ for ‘digital bohemians’ and ‘intellos précaires’ on the one hand. The phrase ‘capitalist garbage bucket’ is also his. 3). The term “ephemeral” comes from nature. in Thomas Hirschhorn and Sebastian Egenhofer.5 This point is pertinent here. Thomas Hirschhorn. see Egenhofer. p..106 nlr 68 less as a characteristic of his work than as a predicament of many people addressed by it. in Gingeras et al. Zürich 2008. 5 Gerald Raunig. in Ur-Collage. ‘Precarity and Form’. the Deleuze in a mostly North African quarter of Avignon (2000). that is subject to challenge and change? Can the precariat be pried apart from its victim status and developed as a social movement? At least one thing is certain: it is not a unified class. 78. 24. for the 2011 Venice Biennale. it’s precarious. 3 For an excellent survey of the art (which I do not undertake here). but all three of his monuments to date—the Spinoza in the red-light district of Amsterdam (1999). ‘to not turn away’—‘to resist. Such projects take the form 1 A slightly different version of this text will appear in Thomas Hirschhorn: Establishing a Critical Corpus. it means rather ‘to look’. London 2004. . and the Bataille in a largely Turkish neighbourhood in Kassel (2002). As Gerald Raunig notes. 4 ‘My work isn’t ephemeral. p.. and ‘rigidly repressive forms of labour discipline’ for migrants and sans papiers on the other. A Thousand Machines: A Concise Philosophy of the Machine as Social Movement. It is a tricky category.
Unless otherwise credited. all Hirschhorn texts cited are courtesy of the artist. December 2009. instability and self-authorization?’6 What does a practice of ‘the precarious as a real form’ entail? ‘The truth can only be touched in art with headlessness’. foil and tape. by voluntarily crossing the border of this protected space. contradictory and hidden encounters’. . the values of the precarious—uncertainty. ‘Is there a way to cross from our stable. and to this end Hirschhorn sometimes takes up the guise of the squatter.foster: Hirschhorn 107 Thomas Hirschhorn. real values. performances and more casual encounters can occur. The next phrase is also from this email. in ‘hazardous. ‘In order to reach this moment I have to be present and I have to be awake’.7 This suggests a first principle. Hirschhorn has asserted. an actual sharing in the conditions of social risk lived by a precariat in a particular situation. ‘I have to 6 Hirschhorn. 1999. to establish new values. Artforum. 2006. he continues. Hirschhorn asks. cardboard. ‘Spinoza Monument’. ‘in order to join the space of the precarious? Is it possible. Amsterdam. ‘Restore Now’. email communication in response to my ‘Precarious’. of makeshift centres of homage. readings. contrived out of common materials like plywood. 7 Hirschhorn. where discussions. secure and safe space’.
he replied that. writers and philosophers chosen for his altars. Against the benign community imagined by relational aesthetics. kiosks and monuments. ‘About the Musée Précaire Albinet’.10 The note of entreaty lodged in the word is strong in many Hirschhorn projects.’8 Alert to the Deleuzian caveat about ‘the indignity of speaking for others’.. Aubervilliers 2005. Thomas Hirschhorn. This definition underscores that this state of insecurity is a constructed one. from precem. pp. In this way Hirschhorn updates the argument in ‘Author as Producer’ (1934) where Benjamin finds the political usevalue of a work less in its attitude or tendency than in its position or function within a mode of production. ‘Restore Now’. defines précarité). that is. I have to face the world. Musée Précaire Albinet. is not only to evoke its perilous and privative effects. the French poet Manuel Joseph. by right. he insists. his work is autonomous in character (‘Letter to Thierry’. rather.’ 8 . He could also be said to ‘squat’ the work of the artists. on the contrary. the time and I have to risk myself. 1994. he counters with the principle of ‘Presence and Production’. 9 Hirschhorn.108 nlr 68 stand up. and he acknowledges that the result might be antagonism with residents as much as fellowship. where it often carries the force of accusation as well. Joseph writes: ‘Precariousness. 120–1). precarious. hence uncertain. prayer’ (Oxford English Dictionary). ‘L’infâme et la tolérance révocable’. 10 See Hirschhorn. ‘Precarious’ derives ‘from the Latin precarius. for such solidarity might only come of a forced union of very different parties. 2004. invented. In his unpublished text. Hirschhorn. but also to intimate how and why they are produced. ‘I want to engage [in] dialogue with the other without neutralizing him.’9 In fact Hirschhorn does not always seek solidarity with this precariat. the reality. decreed and imposed this contract. by a “revocable tolerance” accorded by the Letter of the Law—law as conceived. This means that to act out the precarious. That is the beauty in precariousness. Hirschhorn does not stand in place of a precariat. written by man. is put into practice by means of a provisional authorization. in Gingeras et al. depending on the favour of another. Once charged with playing at homelessness. engineered by a regime of power on whose favour the precariat depends and which it can only petition. It concerns a “condition” whose duration is not guaranteed. except for the men who have drawn up. as Hirschhorn often does. and so to implicate the authority that imposes this ‘revocable tolerance’ (as his sometime collaborator. which names his double commitment to be present on the site where he produces his work. obtained by entreaty.
London.’ Here Butler explores the notion of ‘the face’. 130. rather. 134. Here he calls the force of the precarious ‘fragile. pp. to be attentive. which are often brutal juxtapositions of images of perfect models from glossy magazines and of obliterated bodies found on the Internet (whereas the models are all about the perfect face. 2009. This is precisely what Hirschhorn refuses to do in his ‘ur-collages’ concerning the Iraq War. Judith Butler writes in a similar vein: ‘In some way we come to exist in the moment of being addressed. 2007.11 In ‘Precarious Life’. ‘Théâtre précaire pour “Ce qui vient”’. ‘To give a form to the precarious’.foster: Hirschhorn 109 Thomas Hirschhorn. which Levinas posed as the very image of ‘the extreme precariousness of the other’. awareness of which ‘compels me to be awakened. 12 Judith Butler. p. to be open. Courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery. to be present. Of victims of war in particular. ‘We have been turned away from the face’. cruel. ‘To respond to the face. and something about our existence proves precarious when that address fails. her brief essay on Emmanuel Levinas. Hirschhorn comments. Butler argues. 150. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London and New York 2004. the precariousness of life itself’. 11 . the victims are sometimes faceless). Butler writes. Here the political dimension of the precarious shades into the ethical. ‘Substitution’. to understand its meaning’. it compels me to be active’. ‘means to be awake to what is precarious in another life or. savage but free’.12 Hirschhorn. is to attest to ‘the fragility of life’.
p. They are beautiful because they combine the language of engagement with that of sincerity. .15 One might sum up these commitments with an anecdote about Brecht.’14 Later. These works were ‘directly inspired by the placards I saw in the street and in the metro’. les bêtes. 77. ‘with its proclamation of the equal intelligence of human beings’.’ Hirschhorn anticipated some of the positions of the precarious in a 1995 book of crude collages titled Les plaintifs. who refuses to turn away. beautiful . les politiques’. with apparent indifference. Warhol or Beuys?’ To this either-or. signs that appear in a form that is economic. of a colossal Stalin looming over an Buchloh. exclaiming in capital letters. ‘Where do I stand? What do I want?’. he tells us.’ 14 Hirschhorn.13 ‘Every man is an artist’. Summer 2005. les politiques. past and present.’16 His own collages query a world that can abide. a little wooden donkey with this sign around its neck: ‘Even I must understand it. June 2008. ‘Warhol is for me by no means the apparent opposite of Beuys. Bête In a 2003 conversation with Hirschhorn. who is reported to have kept. ‘cardboard signs made by people in existential need. Art Review. Beuys liked to say. 15 Hirschhorn. ‘Where do I stand? What do I want?’ 16 Hirschhorn. One work shows a photograph of a youth wearing a peace symbol while cradling a rifle. the importance of ‘a non-exclusive public’ was underscored for him by Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991). so he does the one offered by Warhol. ‘Ur-Collage’. immediately. les bêtes. next to his typewriter.110 nlr 68 This is the face often put forward by the precarious art of Hirschhorn. in the margin Hirschhorn scrawls arrows to both objects. 13 . Moreover. included in art. Hirschhorn asserts. included in the work of the artist. 1993. The result is pure. . effective. ‘Les plaintifs. ‘An Interview with Thomas Hirschhorn’. October 113. the most blatant contradictions. and just as Hirschhorn affirms this vision of commonality. Benjamin Buchloh begins with ‘a typical art historian’s question’: ‘Who was more important for you. ‘I really don’t understand!’ Another collage reproduces a Soviet poster. Hirschhorn responds that he has drawn on them equally. whose painting 129 Die in Jet (1962) struck him strongly when he first saw it in 1978 (when Hirschhorn was twenty-one): ‘I felt included. designed by the Constructivist Gustav Klucis.
that the Left not concede the force of Hirschhorn. les bêtes. the fan: ‘The fan can seem kopflos [headless]’. he asks. ‘the plaintive’ is one register of the precarious. associated with Ernst Bloch.foster: Hirschhorn 111 industrial plant. Often Hirschhorn aims for work that ‘escapes control. . les bêtes. it is from beneath. a kind of resistance’. p. a notion that Hirschhorn adapts from Georges Bataille. as in his altars dedicated to lost and/or marginal artists and writers: why not Otto Freundlich and Ingeborg Bachmann. 20 ‘Gingeras in Conversation with Hirschhorn’. he reminds us here. which he describes as a position ‘completely submerged but still unresigned.’19 The headless in turn calls up a third avatar of the bête active in Hirschhorn. even stupid. another is ‘the headless’. ‘Help me [understand]!’ is a recurrent cry of Les plaintifs. but it holds a critical charge. ‘Bijlmer-Spinoza Festival’ (2009).’20 In various pieces Hirschhorn has adopted not only the tokens of the fan (pennants. who investigated the acéphale in the mid-1930s. ‘Les plaintifs. p. rather than Michael Jackson and Princess Diana? This is a utopian gesture. and the sentiment is not faux: the collages. to be sure. in this ‘weak’ position Hirschhorn finds ‘an explosive force. scarves and the like) but also his devotion (he is a fan of Bataille.18 If the weak is one aspect of the bête. ‘were born of an existential need on my part too. . Perhaps ‘the weak’ in Hirschhorn is akin to ‘the minor’ in Deleuze and Guattari. that subversion comes. unreconciled and (of course) uncynical. What to do?’ As noted above.’17 Some of his favourite terms might clarify what is involved here. Nevertheless. 35. nor is it a Nietzschean boast.’ This is not a Christian prophecy (as in ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’). 17 18 . In effect Hirschhorn seeks to redirect the passionate investment of the fan in a détournement of cultural value. 98. One placard quotes the Swiss writer Robert Walser (to whom Hirschhorn dedicated a kiosk). Buchloh. for he finds a ‘resistant character’ in this headlessness too. ‘Ur-Collage’. just as he is of his Saint-Germain soccer club). ‘When the weak take themselves for the strong. but just as often Hirschhorn speaks in the voice of ‘the bête’—bête as in silly. beside which Hirschhorn scratches in pen: ‘Help me!! I find this poster beautiful. 19 Hirschhorn. Hirschhorn reports. It’s a commitment that doesn’t require justification. one not unlike the old Marxist insistence. ‘Interview with Hirschhorn’. even the control of the one who made it’. he says. ‘but at the same time he can resist because he’s committed . I need to comprehend. les politiques’. he writes. les politiques. but I know what Stalin did.
too. Hirschhorn often looks for such creaturely openings. pp.21 Also implied here is a further aspect of the bête. which might become places of purchase where power can be resisted or at least reimagined. Counterintuitive though it is to connect Hirschhorn to Lévi-Strauss. one that. One way not to look away. but also to the resources. 17. as the anthropologist suggested of ‘the savage mind’. 15. ‘a collection of oddments left over from human endeavours’. he says in a wonderful turn of phrase. ‘simplicity is a founding’. One might also see the collages as a pense-bête (a term used by Marcel Broodthaers) in the colloquial sense of a record of events or a reminder of tasks. but also as ‘operators’ that ‘represent a set of actual and possible relations’: Claude Lévi-Strauss. xv. which he treats not only as ‘intermediaries between images and concepts’. Finally. to allow that we are often ‘dumbstruck’ by the outrageous events of the world. such as the mass murder of innocent citizens during the Iraq war. that is. is at once mythographic and mythopoeic in nature. 22 Eric Santner. at such moments a creaturely cringe is ‘called into being.112 nlr 68 popular passions to the Right. 21. creative as well as critical. 19. ex-cited. primitive. Chicago 2006. For Hirschhorn the bête is also a mode of seeing and reading. For Santner the creaturely is provoked by ‘exposure to a traumatic dimension of political power’. The Savage Mind . les bêtes. prehistoric’). If we live in a culture of affect today. ‘fissures or caesuras in the space of meaning’. which Hirschhorn values. On Creaturely Life: Rilke/Benjamin/Sebald. ‘makes do with “whatever is at hand”’. Beuys and Warhol. the bête is also the simple. Lévi-Strauss writes in a famous definition. the artist does practice a bricolage. gruesome images of which Hirschhorn presents in his Ur-Collages (2008). or ‘God and Guns’ in our Tea Party present). of the Lévi-Straussian notion of a pensée sauvage that proceeds by means of bricolage (Hirschhorn describes his collages as ‘simple. which I will call. after Eric Santner. by exposure to the peculiar “creativity” associated with this threshold of law and nonlaw. 18. pp. Chicago 1966. even (or especially) when those passions are archaic or atavistic (like ‘Blood and Soil’ in the Nazi period of Bloch. looking dumb is a form of witnessing that has both ethical and political force (Hirschhorn speaks of his collages as ‘evidence’). is to ‘look dumb’. 21 . Hirschhorn implies. yet it can also point to cracks in the symbolic order at large. he suggests. Perhaps there is an echo here. then we must use its means too. In this light. This aspect of the bête returns us not only to the commonality differently tapped by Brecht. les politiques to Ur-Collages.’ The creaturely can be obscene (think of Caliban in The Tempest). ‘the creaturely’.22 From Les plaintifs. The bricoleur.
New York 1971. reprinted in Sartre. 23 24 . too.25 It is in the interest of this ‘commonism’ (as Warhol once called Pop). Everyone finds himself in them and finds the others too. ‘Ur-Collage A 13’.24 And Sartre wrote similarly about ‘the commonplace’: This fine word has several meanings. that Warhol turned to Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola (the Queen drinks the same Coke. Courtesy the artist. pp. 2008.23 Gramsci (to whom the fourth and final monument will be dedicated) once defined ‘common sense’ as ‘the folklore of philosophy’. not out of cynicism. doubtless. but these thoughts had become the meeting-place of the community. Portrait d’un Inconnu (1957). a reserve not only of superstition to be exposed but also of truth to be deployed. 25 Jean-Paul Sartre. that Hirschhorn turns to everyday materials like cardboard and common techniques like collage. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. as the bum on the street). 326. ‘Where do I stand? What do I want?’ Antonio Gramsci. that is. London 2009. The commonplace is everyone’s and it belongs to me. introduction to Nathalie Sarraute. It is in this interest. It is part of his Hirschhorn. to the most hackneyed of thoughts.foster: Hirschhorn 113 Thomas Hirschhorn. he liked to say. 5–6. p. Portraits. to be found in ‘the general intellect’ of everyday people. it refers. it belongs in me to everyone and it is the presence of everyone in me.
p. It is a motto that speaks to his desire to recharge forms of public art. ‘must necessarily be lost without profit.’27 The Bataillean notion of expenditure (dépense) has guided Hirschhorn in several ways.’30 This suggests that he advances not only a critique of capitalist Georges Bataille. as an arithmetical fact. Summer 2003.114 nlr 68 search for a nonexclusive public. and as a political fact. At the same time. p. 34. 29 ‘Gingeras in Conversation with Hirschhorn’. which perform a headless mimesis of the deranged excesses of advanced capitalism. 2. October 105. The Accursed Share. 28 I develop the notion of mimetic exacerbation in ‘Dada Mime’. 30 ‘Gingeras in Conversation with Hirschhorn’. it is ‘the accursed share’ that must be expended. Hirschhorn proclaims. It is relevant here that Hirschhorn especially prizes Grand PlastoDio-Dada-Drama (1920) by Johannes Bader. ‘Less is Less. he writes in La part maudite (1949). willingly or not. he asserts in an early polemic against the modernist aesthetic of ‘less is more’. p. kiosks. Hirschhorn insists enigmatically of his art. New York 1988. gloriously or catastrophically’.29 In this manner.. that he sometimes adapts the apotropaic skull-and-crossbones used by John Heartfield. Thomas Hirschhorn. This strategy of mimetic exacerbation runs back. 122.26 Hirschhorn agrees: ‘I think more is always more. Johannes Bader and other Dadaists. Hirschhorn. a public after the apparent dissolution of the public sphere. ‘every wound is my wound’). 26 27 . More is More’ (1995). ‘It’s about absolute value. quality no’. And less is always less’. 15.. even as his standard materials ‘make you think of poverty’.28 With Hirschhorn it is especially paradoxical: at the simplest level. Hirschhorn questions a capitalist order that sacrifices use-value at the altar of sign-exchange value. through Warhol. as Buchloh has argued. and his altars. that he sometimes speaks in a way reminiscent of Hugo Ball (e. Expenditure ‘Energy yes. monuments and festivals do stage a passionate kind of public pedagogy.g. in Gingeras et al. and so on. it must be spent. a key text for Hirschhorn. Power is power. Claes Oldenburg and other Pop artists to Hugo Ball. More is a majority. of the overproduction and overconsumption all around us. they are also deployed in the most extravagant ways. For Bataille the essential problem in almost any economy is not so much scarcity as surplus: ‘energy’. p. I want to express that idea in my work as well. ‘More is more. Violence is violence. In the first instance there is the obvious excess of his displays.
Yet unlike commodity exchange. ‘This motive is very important in my work’. Hirschhorn remarked of La part maudite when he included it in his Emergency Library (2003). . ‘Too Too–Much Much’. ‘things which are to some extent parts of persons.’31 Bataille based his version of the potlatch on Marcel Mauss’s theory of the gift. as the alien double of the commodity. ‘I want to make a lot. to get equally involved. Deurle. Belgium. and which cannot be translated on a scale of values’. ‘because nothing has more value than that which has no value. the gift for Mauss produces a partial confusion of things and persons. 31 . Like the commodity for Marx. Hirschhorn says of the Bataillean account of the potlatch in La part maudite. Mauss defined the gift.foster: Hirschhorn 115 Thomas Hirschhorn. gift exchange sets up a ‘pattern of symmetrical and reciprocal rights’. exchange but also a proposal of a different exchange altogether. Paris. Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens. the viewers. so that they also have to give. Courtesy Galerie Chantal Crousel. 93. a Buchloh. 2010. and persons and groups that behave in some measure as if they were things’. implicitly. ‘I chose this book’. . along the lines of the ‘general economy’ of non-productive expenditure advocated by Bataille. give a lot . A socialist. I want to do that in order to challenge the other people. p. ‘Interview with Hirschhorn’. photo: Romain Lopez.
the unknown. For all the discussion Marcel Mauss. 2009. It is less the case with Hirschhorn. p. an egalitarian potlatch (‘1 Man = 1 Man’ is another of his mottos). is—like refusing to accept—the equivalent of a declaration of war’. is about demanding something of the public’. ‘Gingeras in Conversation with Hirschhorn’. 2008. pp. mixing as they do ‘the neighbour’ and ‘the stranger’. prestige accrues to whoever can expend the most. Like all acts of generosity. . and that accrual of symbolic power did occur with potlatch artists like Beuys and Warhol. ‘Six Concerns About Bijlmer’. the uninterested. then.32 Hirschhorn seeks to reanimate subject–object along the lines of gift exchange: he described one proposal (for giant roadside books) as ‘an obscene gift’. ‘To refuse to give. New York 1967. Hirschhorn writes of the aforementioned project. his projects are charged with ambivalence. 11. Hirschhorn comments about a third piece. ‘Rather than triggering the participation of the audience’. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies .’33 Rather than hope for participation. if only momentarily. 2004. ‘Participation can only be a lucky outcome. Mauss writes. the unexpected. Emergency Call it what you like—social contract or symbolic order—it is more tenuous than we think. have to do the work for the implication of the other. yet it is also true that precarity became evermore pervasive in Western societies over the last decade. yet this mixing is undertaken precisely so that a different sort of micro-society might crystallize.’ ‘I am the one. not an abstract equivalence between products that separates them. This is the exchange I propose.34 In the potlatch. ‘Foucault Squatter’. Hirschhorn prepares it by presence and production and then prompts it through implication. of course. who has to give first’. 2001. it is a rubric that covers much of his art. ‘it is a refusal of friendship and intercourse’. the artist. 25–6. ‘The Road-Side Giant-Book Project’. as artist. affirming. 33 Hirschhorn. 34 ‘I want to create the relation with the other only if this other is not specifically connected to art. 32 . who seeks that oxymoronic thing. he says of another work. Certainly the current one was precarious before September 11.116 nlr 68 charged ambivalence between people that binds them together. the stranger’: Hirschhorn. . the neighbour. ‘I want to implicate them . This is and has always been my guideline: to create—through art—a form which implicates the other. because I. or to fail to invite. ‘Giving.
it was a real commitment. ‘Restore Now’. and Schmittian state of exception the norm above. ‘and is never seen again’. greatly enlarged. p. spontaneity and encounter. 38 Walter Benjamin. for the autonomy Hirschhorn. but so does he when he avows ‘I love you!’ ‘I selected figures about whom I could really say. Benjamin writes in his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’. the necessity of this work. and in this capacity they threaten us all. our own have come to operate. on the other. routinely and destructively. it is also a performative contract. One Dress’. Hirschhorn explains of his altars. and to entreat them to take up arms with him in the present. The squat is the precarious form of a precious moment. New York 1969. 113. 2005. ‘The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized’. It is an attempt to rescue the likes of Otto Freundlich and Ingeborg Bachmann from oblivion. ‘Emergency Library’. p. 82. in Illuminations.38 It is in this urgent ‘time of the now’ that Hirschhorn often works.35 More and more the two—precarity and emergency—come together in his discourse: ‘Precariousness is the dynamic. when Hirschhorn assembled thirty-seven books. ‘Interview with Hirschhorn’. ‘Bataille Monument’. See also ‘Foucault Squatter’: ‘The aesthetic of the squat does not interest me for its style. “I love you”’. Hirschhorn often performs this doubling in his work too. he crosses over into the precarious. it was not for desert-island reading but as an arsenal of ‘absolute demands’ for right here and now. I am interested in the aesthetic of the squat because it conveys emergency.’ 36 Hirschhorn.foster: Hirschhorn 117 of ‘failed states’ elsewhere.. 35 . On the one hand. 37 Buchloh. One Army.’37 This expression of love is not only about a libidinal investment in obscure artists and authors.’ In 2003. 257. in Gingeras et al. with the commitment of a fan ‘that doesn’t require justification’. as ‘rogues’. Utopia = One World.36 When Hirschhorn cries ‘Help me!’. p. ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’. the emergency. and so on). ‘“warrior” with dreams’. for his Emergency Library (2003). Thomas Hirschhorn. ‘Utopia. ‘about whom I really meant it. 2002. In this time ‘commitment’ and ‘autonomy’ are not in contradiction (as they are said to be in aesthetic discourse in general). Faced with a situation in which precarity seems the norm below. he speaks to emergency. made in emergency and against emergency. he acts out his own state of emergency (in which role he assumes other guises besides squatter: ‘lone fighter’.
‘Where do I stand? What do I want?’ . in a different register. ‘Where do I stand? What do I want?’ These are questions he means us to ask too. 39 Hirschhorn. Lenin posed (or re-posed) another famous question. the autonomy to authorize myself. ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are going?’ A few years later. the autonomy of assertion.118 nlr 68 that interests Hirschhorn is not the ‘self-sufficiency’ of art but ‘the autonomy of courage.’39 Over a century ago Gauguin asked. ‘What is to be done?’ In his map of his practice Hirschhorn asks.
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