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Dia Art Foundation presents Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument in neighborhood of the Bronx
Thomas Hirschhorn, Gramsci Monument (Construction phase), The Bronx, New York, 2013. Courtesy: The Artist / Dia Art Foundation, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Dia Art Foundation presents Gramsci Monument, a new artwork by Thomas Hirschhorn, on the grounds of Forest Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. Gramsci Monument is open to the public from July 1–September 15, 2013.

“My decision to do Gramsci Monument does not come from an understanding of the philosopher Antonio Gramsci, rather it comes from my understanding of art and my belief that art can transform.” -- Thomas Hirschhorn

Gramsci Monument is the fourth and last in Thomas Hirschhorn’s series of “monuments” dedicated to major writers and thinkers, which he initiated in 1999 with Spinoza Monument (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), followed by Deleuze Monument (Avignon, France, 2000) and Bataille Monument (Kassel, Germany, 2002). This fourth monument pays tribute to the Italian political theorist and Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), famous for his Letters and Prison Notebooks (1926–1937). Gramsci Monument is based on Hirschhorn's will “to establish a definition of monument,’ to provoke encounters, to create an event, and to think Gramsci today. My love for Antonio Gramsci is the love of philosophy, the love of the infinitude of thought. It is a question of sharing this, affirming it, defending it, and giving it form.”

Over the years, Hirschhorn has maintained a commitment to presenting his work in exhibition spaces such as museums and galleries, but also in “public space”: urban settings, sidewalks, vacant lots, and communal grounds of public housing projects. Every work of Hirschhorn’s aims to include the Other, and address what he calls a “non-exclusive audience.” “The Gramsci Monument will remain an affirmation of an autonomous art work that is made as a gesture of love. This gesture doesn’t necessarily call for an answer; it’s both utopian and concrete. I want to create a new form, based on my love for a “non-exclusive audience.”

“Gramsci Monument is a defining project for Dia, and working with Thomas is both a privilege and a learning experience. Every day we learn from his uncompromising commitment to art and audiences,” says Philippe Vergne, Director, Dia Art Foundation. “Gramsci Monument reinforces Dia’s commitment to off-site commissions, which is at the center of our mission. I am confident that through this project Dia will become a different, stronger institution — one that is even more engaged with the reality of art today.”

With Gramsci Monument, Hirschhorn applies his guidelines for “Presence and Production” by being present and producing on location during the full course of the project. “To be ‘present’ and to ‘produce’ means to make a physical statement, here and now. I believe that only through presence—my presence —and only through production —my production— can my work have an impact in Public Space or at a public location.”

Hirschhorn’s ambition is to create through his work, a form of “co-existence,” where questions of autonomy, authorship, and energy are addressed, challenged, and ultimately reinvented.

Gramsci Monument takes the form of an outdoor pavilion constructed with easily available, “unintimidating,” everyday materials. The structure has been built—and later dismantled—by local residents of Forest Houses, coordinated by Hirschhorn and Erik Farmer, Forest Houses Resident Association President and long-time resident. As was the case in his previous monuments, it is the artist’s intention that Gramsci Monument be built and run with the help of local residents, employed temporarily and involved at every stage of the project.

The structure includes an exhibition space with a selection of archives and a library with books by (and about) Antonio Gramsci, borrowed from the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci in Rome, Casa Museo di Antonio Gramsci in Ghilarza, Italy, and the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute in New York, a theater platform, a workshop area, a lounge, an internet corner, and the Gramsci Bar, which is being run by local residents. The Gramsci Monument is open daily, offering a daily program of lectures by philosopher Marcus Steinweg, a children's workshop run by Lex Brown, a play titled the Gramsci Theater, a radio station, and a daily newspaper. Weekly programs include Gramsci Seminars led by eleven scholars, Poetry Lectures and Workshops led by eleven writers, Art Workshops led by Hirschhorn, open microphone events coordinated by the community, and field trips organized by the project’s “ambassador,” Dia curator, Yasmil Raymond.

In order to be continuously present on location throughout the production of his artwork, Hirschhorn is temporarily residing in the South Bronx (from July 1 - September 15) with Lex Brown, Marcus Steinweg, and Dia’s curator, Yasmil Raymond.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside Thomas as he puts forth a new idea of the monument and creates an active space of exchange between people, ideas and communities. The depth of his engagement is exceptional. Thomas has the absolute will to include others, and wants to put the whole world in his work,” said Raymond,. “We are deeply grateful to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea and the hardworking team at NYCHA for embracing this project. Above all, our most profound gratitude goes out to the residents of Forest Houses —in particular Erik Farmer, Clyde Thompson, and Diane Herbert —for joining us in this beautiful effort and offering a firm handshake from day one.”

Hirschhorn has also created a website as part of the Gramsci Monument. It is an informative platform offering texts, notes, pictures and videos documenting the process of the artwork, from its earliest sketches. The website will be updated daily with the productions, philosophy lectures, newspaper and radio streaming that have taken place. It also offers a “press-kit” with pictures and texts available for publication (free of rights). The website, following the monument’s guideline, is meant to be temporary, and will end on December 31, 2013.

To realize this project, Dia and the artist collaborated with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Hirschhorn began “field work” two years ago, visiting forty-six Public Housing sites all around New York City, and meeting with residents in three boroughs, before focusing on seven locations in the Bronx: Castle Hill, Soundview, Monroe Houses, Patterson, Bronx River, Claremont and Butler Houses and Forest Houses.

The “encounters” at Forest Houses with Diane Herbert, Clyde Thompson and Erik Farmer were decisive for Hirschhorn: “I was challenged and taken seriously. These were the real encounters between me and the Other—and one can easily understand that without these encounters, no decision regarding a possible location can be taken. This is why the Gramsci Monument takes place at Forest Houses.”

“The New York City Housing Authority is very much looking forward to our residents engaging in this very special endeavor,” said NYCHA Chairman John Rhea. “We especially thank artist Thomas Hirschhorn for bringing his unique vision to public housing, and totally involving Forest Houses residents. And we thank Dia Art Foundation for its generosity in making this artistic effort possible.”

Gramsci Monument is Dia’s first public commission in New York City since 1996, when Dia extended Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Oaks on West 22nd Street from 10th to 11th Avenues. The opportunity to work with Hirschhorn represents a new manifestation of Dia’s commitment to enabling artists to achieve ambitious projects that cannot be realized within the museum context. In anticipation of the Gramsci Monument, from September 15–November 3, 2012, in New York City, Dia presented Timeline: Work in Public Space, which comprised a 30-foot linear layout of images, written statements, and text excerpts chronicling Hirschhorn’s interventions in “public spaces” in urban and rural sites from 1989 to 2011.

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