Thomas Hirschhorn: In-Between, 2015
Thomas Hirschhorn's In-Between at South London Gallery has been reviewed in The Guardian under the title: 'Things fall apart: the beautiful Marxist bomb that's hit south London; Artist Thomas Hirschhorn plays on our manic pleasure at seeing ruins by making a whole building collapse in on itself'
But not really, it is in a gallery, which is still standing. This is a simulacrum of a building collapsing in on itself. Whatever he is doing, and it is explained in Adrian Searle's review, one has to ask whether or not such an installation does give us manic pleasure. I'm not sure. Hirschhorn quotes Gramsci's note, from Prison Notebooks, 'destruction is difficult; indeed, it is as difficult as creation'. Well, whatever. What is strange is that this art installation must be taken seriously in the light of the fairly simple destruction taking place in Palmyra, and the very similar images seen every day from Aleppo and Damascus. Or even the destruction of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, which although it took half an hour, was relatively quick and one might say simple.
Hirschhorn's ruins are actually made of cardboard and styrofoam standing in for concrete and steel, so technically, I suppose, a maquette, or a model. He says, 'a ruin stands for a structural, an economical, a cultural, a political or a human failure' and it is failure he is giving form to. Art is used here as an intermediary between real ruins and the causes of the real ruins, as if the lessons need to be spelled out. Indeed Adrian Searle appreciates this. If this exhibition is popular, does this indicate some sort of disaster fatigue amongst the general gallery-going first world public? 'oh god, another front page photo of a bombed building with little kids playing in the rubble. Can't take it in. Let's go look at Hirschhorn's ruin instead.'
Compared to Jeremy Deller's It Is What It Is, his exhibition of the bombed car that killed 38 people in Iraq in 2007, In-Between is a limp thing, lacking in commitment and urgency, It remains a maquette, and as such doesn't ask for much from the viewer. Of course it is unfair writing about any work one hasn't seen, but I hadn't seen Deller's piece either, but I got it, or at least got what I needed to hear out of it. And that is the point. What, and how much, in any piece of art, passes a critical point whereby viewers find something to engage with, not just gaze at. In-Between seems a gesture, only.