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Venice Biennale 2011: Thomas Hirschhorn at the Swiss Pavilion

Art critic Ben Lewis grapples with the meanings behind Thomas Hirschhorn's installation

Thomas Hirschhorn is well known for intensely political installations made out of a range of media such as wrapping paper, cardboard and silver foil. Art critic Ben Lewis met him in Venice and asked him about his work in the Swiss Pavilion in Venice.

Transcription

[Ben Lewis] I’m outside the Swiss Pavilion and I’m quite excited, maybe even a bit nervous, because I’m about to interview the ‘art star’ Thomas Hirschhorn, who is well known for intensely political installations made out of things like wrapping paper, cardboard and silver foil.

Well, I’m deep inside the Crystal of Resistance. Why the crystals, and why the resistance?

[Thomas Hirschhorn] Why the crystals? Because I love beauty. Every crystal is between 14 and 19 million years old, and I like the fact that it is something mysterious, but also very violent, because it is the most banal mineral.

[BL] When I look around, I feel like you are telling me, ‘Resist the evils of modern capitalism.’ Do you think I’m reading too far into it?

[TH] I think this is a very simplistic way. Why not? But in order to work out the question of resistance as such, I wanted to use the pictures and the elements of today, of the opinion, the information, the media and technology works surrounding me. But not in order to criticise it, but in order to try to make a distance between the space and the time. Now when you tell me your sharp, brilliant, first opinion, that is a shame to me, because I again think I didn’t get it.

[BL] I’m often wrong in my interpretations of art, but I still plough on resolutely in the hope that one day I will get it right.

I feel in this installation you have introduced a couple of new materials, sort of ear buds?

[TH] Thank you for this observation – it’s true. There are. And I like, of course the ear buds because this is a universal material, as the other material I’m working with – the silver paper, tape, plastic, neons, photocopies – they are materials that everybody knows and uses. I like to cover the ground and the walls, and here also the ceiling. To me, it gives the possibility or hope to make the work mentally transportable. It’s not linked to this specific space. I have to work with the space, not for the space, not against the space, but with the space.

[BL] As I went round your installation, a couple of people thought I looked a bit like you.

[TH] Well, they wanted to… but to hit you?

[BL] I wasn’t sure whether I should impersonate you and start explaining the work in what I now know is completely the wrong words…

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