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New Left Review 68, March-April 2011


hal foster

TOWARDS A GRAMMAR OF EMERGENCY

The swiss-born artist Thomas Hirschhorn builds from the bad new days, not the good old ones, as Bertolt Brecht urged us all to do. [1] A slightly different version of this text will appear in Thomas Hirschhorn: Establishing a Critical Corpus, for the 2011 Venice Biennale. This is so because Hirschhorn aims to confront the present, which, in his idiom, is also to ‘agree’ with it. This is hardly to say that he approves of it; he agrees with it only in the sense that he finds most of his strategies and situations in ‘the capitalist garbage bucket’ that is our shared world. [2] ‘To be in agreement [with the world] does not mean to approve’, Hirschhorn writes; it means rather ‘to look’, ‘to not turn away’—‘to resist, to resist the facts’ (‘Ur-Collage’, in Thomas Hirschhorn and Sebastian Egenhofer, Ur-Collage, Zürich 2008, p. 3). The phrase ‘capitalist garbage bucket’ is also his. This way of working follows an important line on the Left that insists on the resources, cultural as well as political, that lie dormant in the ‘general intellect’ of the multitude, a multitude that, to different degrees, faces a state of emergency today. Here I want only to point to a few of the concepts Hirschhorn has developed to address this condition. [3] For an excellent survey of the art (which I do not undertake here), see Benjamin Buchloh, ‘Thomas Hirschhorn: Lay Out Sculpture and Display Diagrams’, in Alison Gingeras et al., Thomas Hirschhorn, London 2004.

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Hal Foster, ‘Towards a Grammar of Emergency’, NLR 68: £3
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