A Short Biography of Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Hirschhorn was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1957. He attended the Schule für Gestaltung (design) in Zürich from 1978-83. In 1984 he moved to Paris, where he has lived and worked ever since. Through the 80’s he worked with the Communist-aligned graphic design group called Grapus. They maintained an explicit political, social and cultural engagement, rejecting assignments from commercial or government clients, choosing instead to work with theatre groups, town councils, educational causes, social institutions, and the Communist Party itself, for whom they created handwritten posters, leaflets, and bumper stickers. They were also known for their technique called “detournement, the rerouting of a message through acts of visual vandalism,” in which they brought together various artistic mediums such as drawing, painting, photography, text, etc. After receiving the French Grand prix national des arts graphiques, the collective disbanded due to differing opinions as to an assignment with the Louvre. After leaving Grapus, he began to create the hyper-saturated installations he is known for today. From a review of his Cavemanman exhibit in 2002, Michael Kimmelman describes Hirschhorn as an “installationist philosopher whose endearingly thorny makeshift kiosks… and other fly-by-night, jury-rigged constructions of scrap wood, cardboard, and duct tape on the streets of Paris and elsewhere have made him one of the most intriguing artists of the moment.” In this exhibit, he plastered the walls with pictures of Tupac Shakur, Pam Anderson’s bare breasts, and chapters on globalization and public health; garbage cans overflow with cans; the quote “1 Man = 1 Man” is spray painted everywhere. His works are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Tate.
Quote: “I do not want to invite or oblige viewers to become interactive with what I do; I do not want to activate the public. I want to give of myself to such a degree that viewers confronted with the work can take part and become involved, but not as actors.”