PRINT November 2013


Thomas Hirschhorn, Gramsci Monument, 2013, Forest Houses, Bronx, New York. Photo: Romain Lopez. All works by Thomas Hirschhorn © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

THIS PAST JUNE, a sprawling, jerry-built plywood protrusion sprang up in the middle of a South Bronx housing project with the suddenness of a mushroom patch after a spring rain. Residents of the Forest Houses must surely have wondered where this “monument” to Italian Communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci had come from, what it was doing in their neighborhood, what to think of the profusion of philosophy lectures, poetry readings, performances, radio shows, and art workshops the structure would host from its opening on July 1 to its closing on September 15, and, most of all, what exactly to make of its creator, the cartoonishly bespectacled, internationally renowned Swiss artist THOMAS HIRSCHHORN, who had descended on the Forest Houses as if from outer space and remained a daily presence throughout this artwork-cum-community-center’s ephemeral existence, only to vanish with the same abruptness with which he had first appeared.

With a mind to addressing such inquiries, artist GLENN LIGON and architectural critic and Artforum senior editor JULIAN ROSE visited the Gramsci Monument and took its cockeyed measure, while critic DIEDRICH DIEDERICHSEN perused the artist’s collected writings, published in English this past August, in hopes that they, too, might shed light on the urgent questions the last and most ambitious of Hirschhorn’s four tributes to Continental thinkers raised—about the role of the artist, the function of art, and the very viability of public space today.