Thomas Hirschhorn

Born in 1957 in Berne (CH)
Lives and works in Paris (FR)

M2 social, Metz

3 x 8 x 3,8 m
Year of Purchase: 1996

Thomas Hirschhorn often criticises the notion of context which he says generates a certain type of work. For him, it is the work that creates its own autonomous space, whether in a museum space or at a site not originally designed to accommodate an artwork. It was at Borny, just outside Metz, next door to a hut used as a meeting place for associations of Turkish labourers, that the artist built the M 2 social with the help of a young local resident. A work whose title is loaded with irony, using the administrative terminology of the council housing authority, which in its mission statement allocates spaces for use by such associations. Like all Thomas Hirschhorn’s sculptures, M 2 social is made of cheap and nasty, easily replaceable materials; it is designed for maximum visibility (choice of positioning, use of artificial lighting for 24/24 operation etc.) while remaining a closed space, a transient shop window behind which, arranged on tables, are collages on pieces of packing board. On them the artist assembles press and advertising images, among which he tries to restore a meaning, feverishly drawing up clumsy attempts at classifying them in order of importance and so on. His comments and queries, scribbled in ball-point, often take the form of admissions of weakness, powerlessness and incomprehension, making a policy of sorts, a strategy of dull-wit-tedness, the opposite of the media’s way of passing seamlessly from news to advertising. Hirschhorn is ready to risk confusion and incomprehension rather than try and direct meaning or apply any ideology. While the M 2 social is supposed to be visible, this does not make it totally legible. The pile of collages disappears out of sight, creating this feeling of overproduction, of this ‘racing the engine’ that characterises the artist’s work. The way they are presented, lying flat, is a reference to shop windows and displays and other popular (and commercial) ways of showing work done. Also, like the work table, it contrasts with the vertical picture form which presupposes isolation and contemplation. In the M 2 social, a single collage (any one, a priori) is hung up vertically but connected to the others with an aluminium foil string. ‘Make everything by hand, enlarge nothing, reduce nothing. Connect all the elements, leave nothing on its own, leave nothing to one side, no hierarchy,’1 such is the creed espoused by the artist, motivated by political awareness and a critical stance towards the contemporary world, and whose avowed aim is to bring the viewer to ‘link up with the world’.

François Piron

1 Thomas Hirschhorn, quoted in Pascaline Cuvelier, ‘Weak Affinities’, Artforum, New York, 1998.