Produced originally for the Venice Biennale in 1999 and presented in 2000 at the Renaissance Society of Chicago, Thomas Hirschhorns installation Flugplatz Welt/World Airport occupies for the Mudam
exhibition an entire gallery space. Over an area of more than 400 m2, the Swiss artist installed an incredible number of objects reminiscent of an airport.
One finds not only the runway, the planes in the colours of various airlines, the control tower, and the typical neon airport lighting: Hirschhorn also adds numerous other elements, such as gigantic silver spoons, altars with known brand shoes, as well as panels on which a profusion of newspaper cuttings evoking a highly varied range of subjects are displayed. These diverse elements were made of inexpensive materials, one of the hallmarks of his work: foils, maps, cardboard and adhesive tape used in abundance, completed with utilitarian objects such as chairs, suitcases and screens.
Hirschhorns installations are conceived as collages, immense heterogeneous and complex assemblages that invade the place where they are presented and put it under tension. As he explains, his two dimensional thoughts are thus translated in space to remain in reality. The choice of everyday, precarious materials, in opposition to noble, exclusive materials (which exclude, in the literal sense of the term), is part of his strategy of not placing a barrier between the artwork and the viewer and of creating a direct relationship of equals.
Rejecting the idea of an aesthetic and sanctified presentation, too elitist according to him, he aims to breathe energy which helps establish a dialogue with the artwork. Hirschhorn believes in the autonomy of art, effacing himself from this dialogue with the viewer. The disordered profusion of elements and the overabundance of information in his artworks become a mirror of reality and push visitors to orientate themselves by their own.
Flugplatz Welt/World Airport deals with the determinant question of globalization and its collateral, often paradoxical effects: Macro-isolation, self-isolation, and particularities ethnic, religious, social, linguistic, cultural, etc. local divisions, regional and private wars, war lords all tend to separate one entity from another. This shrinkage and splitting is what I wished to explore in Flugplatz Welt/World Airport, the artist explains.
Certain elements provide however guidelines of reflection: the altars represent specific dimensions (spirit body soul), the assorted books invite reading, while the silver spoons are meant to be an ironic reflection of the expression according to which some are born with them in their mouths. All this traces a demarcation line in this globalized and interconnected world which decides between winners and losers.
Flugplatz Welt/World Airport is not however an overtly political artwork in the sense that it doesnt take a position and, because of its plethoric nature, denies any explicit and singular reading.
Thomas Hirschhorn was born in 1957 in Berne, Switzerland, he lives and works in Aubervilliers, France.