Thomas Hirschhorn at La Casa Encendida
October 9, 2009 – January 5, 2010
Hall A, La Casa Encendida (Madrid)
Thomas Hirschhorn, a Swiss artist resident in Paris, presents an exhibition entitled “The Subjecters”, which features a series of vitrines containing mannequins and two installations. According to the artist, every work is a “commentary” on the “complex, chaotic, cruel, beautiful and wonderful” world we live in. The work of Thomas Hirschhorn (Bern, 1957) is a politically committed reflection about contemporary reality. Employing a variety of disciplines such as sculpture, video and installation, Hirschhorn produces works charged with social and political criticism. Three of the works featured have never before been exhibited: “Tools Vitrine”, “Subjecter”, from which the exhibition takes its name, and the vitrine “Ingrowth”, originally created to be shown in a public space in Paris.
“The Subjecters”, which will be on display at La Casa Encendida of Obra Social Caja Madrid from 9 October to 5 January, comprises a series of vitrines with mannequins and two installations. According to the artist, every work is a “commentary” on the “complex, chaotic, cruel, beautiful and wonderful” world we live in.
Using everyday materials such as adhesive tape, cardboard, sheets of plastic, photocopies or, as in this case, mannequins, he represents universal situations in a transgressive, direct way. Through the mannequins, which are intended to represent human beings, the artist talks to us of a “universal wound”, which personifies his assertion, “Each wound is my wound.”
The exhibition begins with a newly produced piece, “INGROWTH”, which unlike the other works was originally planned to be exhibited in a public space in Paris. However, as it never went on display, it will receive its first showing here at La Casa Encendida. For Hirschhorn, a vitrine is a public space because it is an enclosed place which exhibits an object for a hypothetical audience.
In addition to this piece, the artist has produced two new works for the project: “Tool Vitrine” and “Subjecter”, which lends its name to the title of the exhibition. In “Tool Vitrine”, a mannequin appears to threaten us with a hammer, although he might just be going about his daily work, surrounded by all kinds of tools. The implements are typical of those used by the inhabitants of industrial areas such as Aubervilliers, where the artist has his studio. In the midst of the tools, as if it were an instruction manual, sits a copy of Spinoza’s “Ethics”, one of Thomas Hirschhorn’s favourite books. Meanwhile, in “Subjecter”, a single mannequin riddled with nails appears outside the vitrines, like a fetishistic representation of a human figure.
The mannequins in the works are all “connected” in some way with society, be it through the tattoos on the surface of “4 Women”, the magazines that highlight body care in “Mono Vitrine (Interview)”, the art books on Goya that remind us of the horrors of war in “Mono-Vitrine (Goya)”, the tools in the piece “Tool Vitrine”, or the Manga figurines in “INGROWTH”. Completing the exhibition are two installations situated in the middle of the room, “Black&White Hemisphere” and “The One World”.
“The Subjecters” is the title of the exhibition but also the global term for the pieces the artist has made with mannequins or parts of them. As the artist himself says, “The mannequin (or the parts of mannequins) is not the Subject – it’s a Subjecter. The Subjecter is an invention of mine – it stands for what I cannot give a name but for what I can give form (and must give form, as the artist), and I worked it out with the form of mannequins, which is not new in the history of art, but which is a form to express the ‘closest-far-away of myself.’”
Thomas Hirschhorn has been using mannequins for several years now, regarding them as a material that is “inclusive and non-intimidating, unpretentious and democratic, non-hierarchical and simple”, like the adhesive tapes, tinfoil and magazine clippings that he usually employs in his installations.