“24h Foucault”, pre-project (2004) – [eng]

24h Foucault is the avant-garde of the Foucault Art Work. The Foucault Art Work is the project that I have developed following meetings with Daniel Defert and Philippe Artières on the invitation of Nicolas Bourriaud at the Palais de Tokyo in October 2003. Foucault Art Work is a project (like other projects I have) that remains to be realized in the years to come. It depends on me finding the time, energy, places, partners and money to show the Foucault Art Work. This is my objective and I don’t want to lose sight of it. This is why the 24h Foucault is basically the same Foucault Art Work project condensed and speeded up. I want the 24h Foucault to affirm and prove that it’s necessary to work as an artist with precision and with excess. I want this project to be precise and exaggerated! For me, the Foucault Art Work will not change, only speed up. The 24h Foucault comprises 1. an auditorium 2. a library/documentation centre 3. a sound library 4. a video library 5. an exhibition 6. the Merve Verlag archives 7. a Toolbox bar 8. a souvenir shop 9. a newspaper 10. a Foucault studio. 24h Foucault is an autonomous work made collectively. 24h Foucault is a work of art!

24h Foucault, the pre-project

I want to try here to express my wish for the Foucault Art Work. This is the title of the work and at the same time it’s the Michel Foucault exhibition programme. It’s the programme because it’s not about doing an exhibition on Michel Foucault. For me it’s about showing, affirming, giving form to the fact that Michel Foucault was an artist. That his life and his work were a work of art. It’s also about giving form to this affirmation that I share with Marcus Steinweg: philosophy is art! Pure philosophy, true, cruel, pitiless philosophy, philosophy that affirms, acts, creates. The philosophy of Spinoza, of Nietzsche, of Deleuze, of Foucault. I don’t know Foucault’s philosophy, but I see his work of art. It permits me to approach it, to not understand it but to seize it, to see it, to be active with it. I don’t have to be a historian, a connoisseur, a specialist to confront myself with works of art. I can seize their energy, their urgency, their necessity, their density. Michel Foucault’s work of art is charged. It’s a battery. I can seize this charged battery. I want to give form to this. In the Foucault Art Work project, there is more than a vision: there is a singular commitment. There is the commitment to make a work of art. There is the affirmation that the work of art is philosophy, and that philosophy is a work of art. We must free ourselves from exhibitions. I hate and never use the term show in English; I hate and I never use the term piece. I never use and I hate the term installation. But I want to make a work, a work of art! I want to become what I am. I want to become an artist! I want to appropriate what I am. This is my work as an artist.

Foucault Art Work is not documentation. Documentation, documentary films have been overtaken by fiction and by reality of all types. Because documentation wants to place itself in the middle. I don’t want to place myself in the middle. I want to overtake the document, the documentary. I want to make an experience. An experience is something from which I emerge changed. An experience transforms me. I want the public to be transformed by the experience of Foucault Art Work. I want the public to appropriate Michel Foucault’s work of art. I want the public to be active, participate. Evidently the most important participation is activity, the participation of reflexion, questioning, making your brain work. I want the public of Foucault Art Work to seize the energy, the strength, the necessity of Foucault’s work. I want the public to confront what is important in the work of Foucault; I want the public to seize the range and the power of Foucault’s philosophy. I don’t want the public to understand. I want the public to seize the power. The power of art, the power of philosophy!


The Foucault Art Work takes place from 14 October to 5 December (7 weeks) at the Palais de Tokyo. I want to make a sort of Bataille Monument, but on the inside, in an institution. What have been the lessons from my experience of the Bataille Monument! That this experience produces something: meetings, confrontation, production, thought, more work, loss, discussions, friendship. To produce that, I have understood that it’s necessary for the artist to be present all the time and not to be alone. This event must be very well prepared. You have to work uphill on this project with contributors, participants, co-producers. Foucault Art Work is going to be an event that must be produced elsewhere at least once (US, Japan or elsewhere). I want the Palais de Tokyo to be only the first event. There must be another. Another partner must be found. Foucault Art Work must be an event with between 700 and 1000 square metres of space. The proposed alcove of the Palais de Tokyo is too small. I need more space! It needs a minimum of 700 square metres. In the Foucault Art Work event, I want to work closely with my philsopher friend Marcus Steinweg from Berlin. He will be with me on site all the time, during the event. He prepares, he proposes, and he accompanies this work. He is part of the work. He will affirm. He will appropriate. He will act with love, like me, but not with respect. With the love of philosophy, not with the respect of a hommage. Foucault Art Work will be made with love and without respect. Every day there will be the intervention of a philosopher, a friend, a writer who will interpret the work of Foucault. There will be a Michel Foucault exhibition. I want the public to understand: the exhibition is only one part of the Foucault Art Work. The exhibition with photos, personal books, original documents, press cutttings (international). Peter Gente of the Merve-Verlag Berlin made a beautiful exhibition at ZKM in Karlsruhe. There will be a sound-, book- and media-library with all the books (in all languages), all the videos and all audio material of Foucault. I want there to be photocopiers, video material, sound material, on site, simple and efficient, so that the public can take home photocopies or video and audio copies, books, extracts of books or other documents, as they wish. I want the Foucault Art Work not only to be a place of production, but also ofdissemination. It is important to diffuse and give diffusion to the work of Foucault or to parts of Foucault’s works. There will be a Michel Foucault shop. The shop isn’t a place to sell things, the shop is in fact another exhibition. It’s an exhibition of souvenirs made to look at, not to buy. As in the vitrines of a big football club, where trophies are exhibited, photos of former players, the players’ vests, the club’s different stadiums, the celebrity visits. These are important but not decisive souvenirs. Decisive is what is made today. Today and tomorrow. There will be a Foucault-Map. A work that I will do with Marcus Steinweg. Like I did the Nietzsche-Map and the Hannah Arendt-Map. It’s a very big plan of the philosophical position of Foucault in the galaxy of philosophy. There will also be documents and elements that put the Foucault Archives at your disposal. This can be integrated in the Foucault Art Work project. However the archives must be exposed in another (second) manifestation. Finally I want there to be a simple and condensed auditorium for lectures, concerts, speeches. I want the public to be inside a brain in action. There will be no narration, no discussion, no illustration. There will be affirmation. There will be ideas. There will be confrontation. When I say: there is no discussion, I mean: it’s not to debate and discuss philosophy and art. It’s necessary to confront yourself. It’s necessary to forge a resistance. I want all the forms, all the contributions to be chosen politically, philosophically, artistically. Because it’s the same thing. No element is chosen for any reason other than political. I want the Foucault Art Work project to be a proposition that overtakes me, that makes my capacity for responsibility explode. It’s necessary to try and be responsible for something which I can take responsibility for. There must also be a Foucault-Studio. A place of work with computers and space for working. Making sculpture, doing research, having experiences that you don’t usually have. Learning another language, for example. I repeat: the Foucault-Studio, the Foucault-Shop, the Auditorium, the book-, sound- and media-library, the Foucault Exhibition, the contributors (every other day), the Foucault-Map, the Foucault Archives. These eight elements will be put alongside each other as in the human brain; they disrupt each other, they complete each other, they compete against each other. But they never contradict each other – they demonstrate the complexity and the infinity of thought. There will be chairs, lots of chairs, armchairs, lots of armchairs for sitting down and reflecting, reading and exchanging. There will be lots of light. Foucault Art Work will be very lit. In the Foucault Art Work there will be lots of computers, photocopiers, audio-recorders, video and DVD recorders, TV screens, but all these objects will be integrated, mastered; tools, arms, but never aesthetic effects with which to intimidate the public, or to show them new technology. The technologies serve art, they serve philosophy. They will be tools, but not necessities. To kill them, it’s not necessary to have a gun. To construct a house, it’s not necessary to have a hammer. You must always work firstly with your brain.

Foucault Art Work will not be a Thomas Hirschhorn exhibition. I will have contributed to this project with others, I hope lots of others. Marcus Steinweg, Manuel Joseph, Christophe Fiat, Peter Gente, not to mention those to whom I’ve already spoken of the project. This project will be made together, multiply, with multiple singularities, active, turned towards affirmation, the other. Turned to the other with friendship, but without compromise. Neither visual, nor of meaning, nor of space, nor of content.

Foucault Art Work is an ambitious project. It is itself an affirmation as much as a work of art.

Thomas Hirschhorn, artist’s proposal, 24h Foucault Journal (Paris: Palais de Tokyo, 2–3 October 2004); trans. Claire Bishop, 2006.