The Guggenheim-Dilemma (2011)
Dear Nancy, dear Richard,
As you know, I am one of those who signed the petition for the boycott of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, to put pressure on the museum to do everything in order to remedy the labor exploitation on Saadiyat Island, to treat the workers as they deserve to be treated and to protect their rights as workers. I am happy and willing to do everything
I can do in order to achieve this, that’s why I signed the petition for a boycott.
Nevertheless, there is a dilemma. The dilemma – my dilemma – is not about exhibiting – here and now – in the Guggenheim Bilbao with my Work “Cavemanman” while at the same time boycotting of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. That is not my dilemma and the dilemma is not either about some other contradiction that observers might point out.
The dilemma, my dilemma, the real dilemma is the dilemma between – the politics of the “good intention”, “the good conscience”, “the engagement of the artist” – that I should in fact call “pseudo politics” or “making politics”, which imply narcissism and selfishness – that I signed for – and between my belief and my conviction that Art – as Art – has to keep completely out of any daily-political cause in order to maintain its power, its artistic power, its real political power.
By signing the petition for this boycott, I am facing this dilemma, my dilemma, it’s a problem without solution, it’s a dead-end. On one side – I really want to do what I can, what I think is in my power – to fight for equality, universality and justice. But I also know that it is easy to add my signature to this fancy artist’s boycott-list. Too easy, because I know that when signing a boycott, I have to pay the price for the boycott – myself first – so that the outcome can turn into a real success.
Art, because it’s Art, resists a simplified idealism and a simplified realism, because it refuses aesthetical and political idealism and aesthetical and political realism. And Art – because Art – is never neutral, but also Art cannot be neutralized by doing politics. I want to admit that this is the “dead-end” I am in. I have to face it. I have to confront this dilemma and – as an artist – I even have to assert it as my dilemma, furthermore.
My hope is that something that makes sense remains.
– My signature for the boycott will make sense if it does change the conditions of the workers for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
– My signature for the boycott will make sense if the dilemma, if the trap and if the temptation of politics allow me to confront the hard-core of reality, which is the limit of such a boycott.
– And my signature for the boycott of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will make sense if I have a price to pay for it.
Thomas Hirschhorn, April, 2011