Thomas Hirschhorn’s Monument to Antonio Gramsci closed on Sunday, September 15, 2013, ending a ten-week stay in the Forest Houses Housing Project in the Bronx.
The project, produced by DIA Art Foundation, featured a hand-made wooden complex that housed a museum, resource and arts center, radio station and lecture theater, all celebrating the words and mind of the great Italian 20th Century philosopher, who stood up against Fascism and wrote most of his opus from jail (Prison Notebooks).
We are particularly partial to Gramsci, a man who famously proclaimed that “Every human being is an intellectual” and that even more pertinently to our times wrote, “I live, I am a partisan. That is why I hate the ones that don’t take sides, I hate the indifferent.” Indifference is indeed the plague of our times, and we are all, in a big or small way, culpable.
Part celebration, part workshop, the public art project encouraged interactions at every level. Local residents helped building and will help tearing down the large plywood structure, decorated it with murals, run a café, a child art room, a newspaper and a radio station, and used onsite computers with free wi-fi. Artsy Manhattanites though were the ones seen attending the sometime very intellectual lectures.
Hirschhorn like to play with the messiness of life, with big ideas in poor packagings, and never is his approach more effective than in a project where real interaction takes place. As Gramsci pointed out in the 1930s, “An idea is not efficacious unless it is expressed in some way artistically.” Art makes concepts approachable, and we we could not agree more.