In-Between / Thomas Hirschhorn / South London Gallery

Thomas Hirschhorn shows the chaos in which we are involved. The landscape after a war is the normal appearance of the contemporary world. By contrast, the bright side, which hopefully we inhabit, is embellished, is decorated, representation, Potemkin effect. A decorated self-produced and self-indulgent.

Amid the devastation around us in the gallery, just the toilets remain standing. As if the rest would come through them. As latrines overflowing debris. As toilets regurgitating the disasters of war. This would be the scene printed by a Goya of the XXI century. The walls are cracked, the ceilings sagging, the roofs full of holes, and pipes and wires hang dangerously. Quote Karl Marx does not seem too far-fetched here: “All that is solid melts into air.” Marshall Berman used this phrase as the title of a magnificent volume that points to the self-destructive tendency of modernity.

The installation becomes real as we enter the gallery. The next thing is to understand that the drill is out. That life is rhythmic by detonations. Where the metronome is a machine gun, the precarious reality is ruined again and again. What we see, now with no sound, evokes the thunderous indiscriminate guerrilla raid wich like voracious pest destroys everything as it goes, evokes the latent heat remaining in the ear like an unbearable buzz, like a flatlane, an electroencephalogram plane.

In this exhibition we don’t find the usual mannequins we have seen before disposed by the artist. Without any figure, the viewer suddenly becomes inhabitant of the ruins, desolate hiker, a flâneur stripped of sense, because there is no town, no city.

The light coming through the myriad of open holes in the ceiling resembles the most beautiful night imaginable and yet it is indicative of the darkest days. The outlook is bleak. It is not harmless as a video game. Does not have the cleanliness of the news that turns everything into fiction, distant, alien, even beautiful. Avoid, as Jean Baudrillard said, thanks to television filter, we could feel safe thinking that the war has not taken place, without distinction between films and advertisements.

Hirschhorn play politics when he exposes, he manifests, he points out, he provokes. A fabric hanging from a wall carrying a painted quote from Antonio Gramsci suggests the motivations of the artist. “Destruction is difficult. It is as difficult as creation. ”

The artist wants to destroy the destruction, destroy inequality, wars, poverty, hunger, the Pareto principle by which a minimum percentage of the population holds the world’s wealth. He wants to remind us that all wars are commercial. That ammunition is an object of consumption. That petrol wich moves tanks is sold by the same providers to all sides -such as Thomas Pynchon fictionalized in Gravity’s Rainbow. Actually there are only two sides, the one who receives the bullets and one who sells them.

Hirschhorn making art, becomes critical, and does so in the manner of Charles Baudelaire wrote: “Pour être juste, c’est-à-dire pour avoir sa raison d’être, la critique doit être partiale, passionnée, politique, c’est-à-dire faite à un point de vue exclusif, mais au point de vue qui ouvre le plus d’horizons“, meaning criticism should be partial, impassioned, political.

I share the slogan of Baudelaire, and I write in a partial, passionate, political way. So you, whose side are you on? I am on Hirschhorn’s side.


Thomas Hirschhorn

South London Gallery


26 June – 13 September