Answers to the Tarzan & Jane project (2006)
1. How do you represent war in an artwork ? (should art deal with war ? how ? you think it’s your/our responsibility ?)
First of all, I hope that my artwork answers this question. I do not represent war in my artwork and war is not a thematic to me. Never was war a thematic to me. If there should be a thematic it is about the Other. The Other is my next, my neighbour. The Other is what is strange to me, what I cannot understand, what I am afraid of. The Other is the absolute neighborhood. I want to touch the Other, to confront the Other. The thematic is hate, ressentiment, violence of the Other and my own hate, my own ressentiment and my own violence. That’s what I want to represent in my work and this is my thematic. I think that artwork, my work – because it is Art – can create the conditions for confrontation or the conditions for a dialogue, directly, from one to one.
Should Art deal with war is an obscene and politician question because Art never “deals” with anything. Art exists in itself, Art cannot be used in a deal. Art is the assertion of itself and every Art has – because it is Art – a political meaning. Having a political meaning is what constitutes the power of Art. Art is a question of faith and I am not afraid to say it – I have faith in Art. Faith is what I need in order to do my work beyond the control of theory. Art escapes the control, the control of myself – the artist – and in doing this, Art has the capacity to reach the Other. In doing artwork I have to agree with the Other. Agreeing with the Other means “working politically”, with confidence in the tool Art – which has its own strength. To agree does not mean to approve of everything, but it means to agree with the reality in order to change it, this is the political meaning.
About responsability, yes, indeed, I do think there is responsibility to be taken, I have to take responsibility and responsibility for everything. This is my universal responsability as an artist. It means to take on responsibility for what I cannot be responsible for. Art is the tool to take over this responsibility. Taking over responsability has nothing to do with a thematic, it has to do with the form of the artwork. I am responsible for the form of the artwork. Which form do I give my artwork, this is the problem, this is the challenge and this the difficulty. I want my work to be judged upon this.
2. Where do you get your information ? (what’s the source ? who controls information and disinformation ? does art have a role in informing the public about war ?)
First of all, I hope that my artwork answers this question. I do not need information to make artwork, my work is never about information or opinions. I think that doing artwork is beyond informing, doing artwork is not doing journalism or politics, doing artwork is not working with facts or against facts, doing artwork is not doing “research”. Doing artwork is trying to touch truth – doing artwork is not communicating something but asserting forms. Doing artwork is not developping argumentation or propaganda.
As an artist I have to start from myself, I am my own source, I have to work from my own and only from what comes from my own. I have to give form to my own vision, to what only I see, to what only
I think, only in my way. As an artist I have to work beyond scientific approaches and beyond historical facts, which doesn’t mean to cut myself off from the surrounding world, but means to confront the surrounding world with my own world. I try to do this with each one of my works, so I need to stay lucid about control or non control of information. I am not interested in the world of information, in the world of facts and opinions. Nothing is more boring than someone well informed, properly informed, someone who knows the facts. Nothing is more annoying than something “known”, something sure, because it just isn’t about the truth. I am interested in truth as concept of truth and not as truth opposed to lies, because Art exists also in non-truth. I want to make my forms truth. I think that truth can only be touched – in Art – in few, hazardous and hidden moments, the beautiful, magic moments of enlightment.
Art asserts itself against facts and against opinion, there is no common sense necessary in Art. It’s not the role of Art to inform, neither about war nor about something else. I – as an artist – do not need clarity and I do not need to avoid chaos but I want to work in the unclarity and in the chaos of the world. That is what I want to do. I need to keep my eyes open, what I need is to be awake, to open my mind and pay attention. I need to be courageous, I need to be sensitive to my time, I need to take risks regarding the reality and need to be curious towards the world I am living in.
3. Where is war ? (who is at war today ?)
First of all, I hope that my artwork answers this question.The war is inside me ! I am at war, war is inside every body and every brain of ours. It’s today. It’s now. It’s universal, it’s the reality and war is the untouchable part of this reality. I am a warrior – I want to face myself.
4. Are you a political artist ? (is art political ? Goya or Duchamp ?)
First of all, I hope that my artwork answers this question. No, I am not a political artist – why should I accept this lazy, comfortable classification ? I think that the problem, the difficult question, the goal is to do the artwork politically, this is the whole, entire and enormous difference.J.-L. Godard said : “to make film politically and not make political films”. “Working politically” means working without cynicism, without negativity and without self-satisfying criticism. “Working politically” means first working, just working, doing the work, doing it ! Because I believe that Art – as Art – can attain a real importance. I want to work it out. I want to do an artwork which resists the moralist or nihilistic tradition.
I love the work of Goya and I love the work of Duchamp. Why should I choose between these two artists to answer the question “is Art political” if I think that both Goya and Duchamp are exemplary of how to do Art politically ? Goya and Duchamp made artwork with the confidence of the absolute autonomy of Art. So I want to try to replace the word “political” with “autonomous”. I want to insist on the importance of the autonomy of Art. The term “autonomy” is a positive term to me, because “autonomy” can be a tool to work out contemporary problematics involving economic, religious, cultural and social issues. But I also know that “autonomy in Art/ autonomy of esthetics” can also be interpreted in a negative way, and I do not understand nor do I accept this. It is a reductive interpretation of the term “autonomy” and – I think – it is a politician (not a political), academic, polemic and only critic understanding. To consider “autonomy of Art” as only a self-sufficiency, as “l’art pour l’art” is partial and dogmatic.
The “autonomy of Art” which interests me is the autonomy of courage, the autonomy of assertion, the autonomy to authorize myself, the autonomy to do something on my own – without argumentation, without explanation, without communication and without justification. I authorize myself to believe in the autonomy of Art. The autonomy of Art does not come from self-sufficiency but from self-authorization. This is why autonomy is never passive, autonomy is active, it’s the activity of hope. Hope brings enlightment. The principle of hope in taking action. This is what is political ! This is what enlights me ! I am enlightened by Goya’s fascinating “Disasters of War” and yes – I am enlightend by Duchamp’s fantastic “Etant donnés”.
5. What are you fighting for ?
First of all, I hope that my artwork answers this question. I am fighting for my artwork. I have to fight for my work, again and again. My work is attacked, I have to defend it, and that’s the fight – I am not complaining. I want to fight against the dictatorship of what is allowed, the politically correct thinking and the cultural tendency. I have to struggle with myself – as everyone else – in order to keep the freedom to do what I want. I am not afraid of contradictions, complexity, missunderstandings or missinterpretations. I want to remain disobedient, I want to stay headless, I want to work in excess and I to plunder myself, I want to be free with myself. I am fighting against myself. I am fighting to do an artwork which in its complexity, its density and its incomprehensibility is reflecting the reality. I want to fight to give form, my forms. I have to resist glamour, coolness, correctness and fashionability. I want to fight for equality and I want to fight for fraternity. I am fighting to be an engaged citizen. I want to be an engaged citizen, but being an engaged citizen does not mean being an “engaged artist” – because as an artist you have to be engaged with your work. A not-engaged artist does not exist, every artist is totally engaged with his work, this is clear to me.
I am not interested in provocations, in polemics nor in scandals. I want to agree with myself. I want to stay non-resigned and non-reconciled. To me Art is a tool, the tool to confront myself with reality. Art is a resistance movement, Art resists, Art is neither passive nor reactive, Art attacks, Art defends. I will not get lulled to sleep, I will continue to work and I will be happy. And I always want the fighting in order to ask the fundamental questions : what do I want ? what is my position ? where am I standing ?
Thomas Hirschhorn, Aubervilliers 25.5.2006