Black & White Hemisphere
Michael Stevenson is pleased to present an installation by Thomas Hirschhorn as part of the FOREX series.
Born in Switzerland and based in Paris, Hirschhorn is among the most significant artists to emerge internationally in the 1990s. As an artist, he relentlessly explores the relationship between contemporary art and politics. He resists being a commentator or a traditional activist in favour of a highly principled, personal politics: "Where do I stand? Where does the other stand? What do I want? What does the other want?"
Black & White Hemisphere was conceived by Hirschhorn for a travelling exhibition, German Angst, in which filmmakers, writers and artists were invited to respond to the 'normalisation' of Germany's history after its reunification of 1990. The parallels with South Africa, which achieved its own 'reunification' in 1994, are abundant, and because the sculpture eschews German subject matter in favour of universal issues of inequality and divisions among people, its changing context enriches rather than displaces the work.
The sculptural assemblage incorporates many of Hirschhorn's signature materials. On a base, the severed arms of mannequins hold up two halves of a globe, one painted black, the other white. The split that separates the two hemispheres reveals arteries which run through the globe as a whole, both turning it into a brain and emphasising the interconnectedness of the earth's ecosystem in general, and of its human population in particular. Surrounding the globe are stuffed toy sheep; the four corners of the base poles, covered in sheepskins, create the suggestion of a boxing ring: a site of conflict. The 'paradox of plenty' in the text around the base of the sculpture refers to the economic observation that those areas richest in natural resources often remain the least developed. The effects of this paradox are felt strongly in various parts of Africa, making the sculpture's presence on this continent especially poignant.
Hirschhorn was born in 1957 in Bern, Switzerland. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at, among others, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museu d'Art Contemporani, Barcelona; Kunsthaus Zurich; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and Secession, Vienna. In 2003 he founded the Musée Précaire Albinet, a temporary art and community space in Aubervilliers, France. He has taken part in many international group exhibitions, including Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany, where his large-scale public work, Bataille Monument, was on view; Heart of Darkness at the Walker Art Center; and recently Life on Mars: The 55th Carnegie International. Hirschhorn was the recipient of the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2000 and the Joseph Beuys-Preis in 2004.