Thomas Hirschhorn-Gramsci Monument, portrait of a multi-faceted figure
by Muriel Del Don
- The film by Swiss director Angelo Alfredo Lüdin contemplates a complex figure, on the verge of schizophrenia
Following the impressive portrait of the actress and narrator from St. Gallen, Trudi Gernst and of the graphic designer and events manager (of, among others, the famous Willisau Jazz Festival) from Lucern, Niklaus Troxler, Angelo Alfredo Lüdin sticks to a Swiss artist: Thomas Hirschhorn. His latest documentary (vying for the Solothurn Award at the latest edition of the Solothurn Film Festival) is a skilful film portrait of a controversial and mysterious figure, a mix of fiction and reality, in a constant coming-and-going of the public image and intimacy. Thomas Hirschhorn-Gramsci Monument [+see also:
film profile] plays on the idea of the “public figure” by challenging, in a subtle and well-balanced way, the myth and the man hiding behind the myth, the figure and the profound truth beyond the media creation. With his latest feature Angelo Lüdin illustrates the complexity and duplicity of a Swiss artist who plays host to an impressive number of personalities.
On invitation from the famous Dia Art Foundation for the Forest Houses, a social housing unit in the Southern neighbourhood of the Bronx in New York, Thomas Hirschhorn builds his “Monument to Gramsci” which definitively concludes the series of monumental works dedicated to his favourite philosophers. The Swiss artist is helped in his endeavour by the neighbourhood residents who become his right arm and the involuntary witnesses of his process of artistic creation. The “Monument to Gramsci” transforms, one summer, into the privileged meeting place for the inhabitants of a rough neighbourhood and also, into the centre point for the sophisticated world of contemporary art.
With his camera Angelo Alfredo Lüdin follows this at times bizarre human adventure: it’s the involuntary private confession of an artist who has to deal with the frequently abysmal gap between artistic ambitions and real life. This latest feature by the director from Basil slowly unveils, with finesse and determination, the ambiguity of artistic creation and the difficulties of staying true to one’s ideals in a complex environment like the Bronx, where it’s easy to get lost. Thomas Hirschhorn-Gramsci Monument is no hagiography of a super star artist; on the contrary, it’s a lucid and in-depth analysis of a paradox. The strength of Lüdin’s documentary lies in his relentless search for error, for cracks in the “Hirschhorn system”, that moment of vulnerability that unveils the true face of an artist with a complex and mysterious personality. Hirschhorn wants his art to melt into the local reality but at the same time, and paradoxically, he doesn’t care (or better yet he can’t allow himself to care) about the everyday problems faced by the inhabitants of this neighbourhood.
What will remain after the monument to Gramsci is destroyed? Will life for the inhabitants of the Bronx really change? These are the questions posed by the “real” people who built the monument, pawns in a game of serious repercussions. Lüdin underscores the duplicity of an artist who wavers between personal ambitions and concrete problems, in an art world that’s often permeable and hyper intellectualized. Thanks to Lüdin’s camera, which unceasingly documents the key stages in the construction of the monument, Hirschhorn is at times depicted as a tyrant and at others as a Messiah ready to change the sad day-to-day life of an entire community. The director from Basil creeps skilfully and with determination into the mind of a holy monster of contemporary art. The result is surprising.
(Translated from Italian)